Rajasthan High Court: While deciding the instant petition filed by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali seeking to quash the FIR filed under Sections 153A, 153B and 295A IPC, against him and the actors of his controversial magnum opus ‘Padmaavat’, the Bench of Sandeep Mehta, J., allowed the petition thus quashing the impugned FIR filed against the Director and actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh. Having analysed the movie in entirety, the Court held that there was not even a single scene therein which could be considered as amounting to one which can hurt the feelings of any race, caste, creed or religion. Observing that art is the most creative and beautiful form of expression conferred upon human beings, the Court stated that the protests against the film simply manifests that persons with hidden agendas have acted irresponsibly on basis rumors and have been planning to hinder its screening in defiance to the directions of the Supreme Court, thereby depriving the people of India in general and of Rajasthan in particular, from witnessing a glorious tribute to the valiant history of Rajasthan.
The film Padmaavat (earlier Padmavati) has been surrounded by controversies ever since the commencement of the shooting. Various Rajput community groups had alleged that the film distorts the history of the legendary queen of Chittor, Padmavati who had committed ‘Jauhar’ in order to protect her honour from the invaders and therefore the film hurts the sentiments of the community. Many cases and FIRs (including the present impugned FIR) had been filed against the director and the cast; and States of Rajasthan, Haryana etc. imposed a ban on the film’s screening despite the film being cleared by the Censor Board. Ultimately the Supreme Court in Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India, (2018) 1 SCC 761, stepped in to put a stay on the ban imposed by some of the states and clearly directed them to maintain law and order in their respective States and allow protection to the multiplexes and theaters screening the film and also to the viewers.
In order to test the veracity of the respondent’s claim, the film was screened for the perusal of the Court as primary evidence, after which it was noted that allegations leveled against the film were baseless. The Court firmly stated that, “portrayal of the characters of Padmavati and the King of Chittorgarh as depicted therein would fill the heart of every citizen of this country more particularly those of Rajasthan and Mewar with pride rather than creating a feeling of hatred or abhorrence”. Lamenting upon the fact that what should been a cause of celebration by viewing a magnificent display of the glorious history of Rajputana culture, has been turned into a nasty dispute arising from an unlawful motivated step taken in utter haste. [Sanjay Leela Bhansali v. State of Rajasthan, 2018 SCC OnLine Raj 283, decided on 06.02.2018]