The Delhi High Court today rejected a plea seeking penal action against the producers and the director of Padmaavat for alleged glorification of the practice of sati. Sati is an obsolete funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre and the law prohibits it.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the plea saying the petitioner should have approached the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) at an appropriate time.
The high court also said in its detailed order that the Board has exercised its discretion carefully and not given a ‘U’ certificate for unrestricted viewing but granted ‘U/A’ certification. “As on date, the film stands released as well. The film stands released without any complaints and it is already in public domain. If the petitioner was having any complaint with regard to the issue raised in his writ petition, he should have made a complaint before the CBFC at an appropriate time. We find no merit in the petition. The same is dismissed.” the court said.
The bench also said that writs cannot be issued against artistic works premised on individual perceptions. The entire writ petition is premised on the sole submission that it has elaborately choreographed the ‘Sati’ or ‘Jauhar’ scenes in the history of Indian cinema. The writ petitioner does not even state at all that the film is “supporting, justifying or propagating the practice of sati.” It is therefore, not possible to hold that the film would invite penal action under the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987.
A PIL by social activist Swami Agnivesh had sought deletion of the scenes that depict the practice of ‘sati’. The court had earlier observed that according to one of the disclaimers in the film, it is a work of fiction and therefore, it does not show any intention or animus on the part of the producers or director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, to propagate the practice.
The petition, filed through advocate Mehmood Pracha, had sought directions to the Delhi Police to lodge FIR against Ajit Andhare, one of the producers, and Bhansali.
Central government standing counsel Manish Mohan, who appeared for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the censor board, had opposed the plea, saying the movie was certified for public viewing after considering all the aspects.
The court had said that in the present day and age, it was “hesitant to accept” the petitioner’s claim that someone would follow such a practice just by seeing the movie.
The high court on January 25 had rejected a Rajasthan-based group’s plea seeking quashing of the certification granted to the film, saying the Supreme Court had permitted its release.
The film, which hit the theatres on January 25, is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and has Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in the lead roles. It is based on the saga of a historic battle of 13th century between Maharaja Ratan Singh and his army of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi.
The impending release of the movie had led to several incidents of vandalism, including an attack on a school bus in Gurugram and torching of a Haryana Roadways bus on January 24. The set of the movie was vandalised twice — in Jaipur and Kolhapur, while its director Bhansali was roughed up by members of the Karni Sena last year.
The apex court had paved the way for nationwide release of the film by staying the ban on its screening in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It had also restrained other states from issuing any such notification or order banning the screening of the film.