New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today reserved its decision on a plea alleging that Bollywood film ‘Padmaavat’ glorified the practice of ‘sati’ and seeking penal action against its producers and director.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said it has to be shown that the idea of glorifying the practice was being intentionally propagated by the producers and director of the film.
It 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 observations came during the hearing of a PIL by social activist Swami Agnivesh who has sought deletion of the scenes that depict the practice of ‘sati’.
‘Sati’ is a funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre or takes her own life in another manner shortly after her husband’s death.
The petition, filed through advocate Mehmood Pracha, also seeks directions to the Delhi Police to lodge an FIR against Ajit Andhare, one of the producers, and Bhansali.
Central government standing counsel Manish Mohan, appearing for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the censor board, opposed the plea, saying the movie was certified for public viewing after considering all the aspects.
Pracha argued that even he saw the scenes showing ‘sati’ or ‘jauhar’ and he too was of the view that the manner in which it was being shown, “glorifies” the practice.
The bench, however, said if the petitioner’s view was accepted, then the scene showing attempted disrobing of Draupadi in the Mahabharata serial would be construed as propagating sexual violence against women.
“Just because someone shows something, does not mean it is propagation. If someone views it (film) and gets affected, then the person showing it cannot be blamed. The effect does not make out an offence,” the bench said.
The court also 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 bench had declined to hear the matter and asked the petitioner group, Jauhar Smriti Sansthan, to move the apex court as it had permitted the screening of the film.
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 movie 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.
Maintaining that the states were under constitutional obligation to maintain law and order, the apex court had said this duty also included providing police protection to the persons involved in the film, its exhibition and the audience watching it.
The top court had on January 18 passed the interim order on the plea by Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd and other producers of the movie challenging the bar on screening of the movie by Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. (PTI)
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