Apex court lifts ban on 'Jodhaa Akbar'

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New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday lifted the ban on screening Bollywood film "Jodhaa Akbar" in Uttar Pradesh and some towns of Uttarakhand and Haryana following a petition by producer UTV.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishna and Justice R.V. Raveendran scrapped the Uttar Pradesh government ban as well as similar orders by authorities in Dehradun in Uttarkhand and in Ambala, Sonepat and Rewari in Haryana.

UTV Software Communication Ltd approached the court pleading that the ban violated its fundamental right of speech and expression, and invoked article 32 of the constitution.

"Jodhaa Akbar", based on a story of Mughal emperor Akbar's marriage to Rajput princess Jodha Bai, has been facing protests in several states including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand.

Some Rajput organisations insist that Jodha was not Akbar's wife but his daughter-in-law while some claim that the portrayal of Rajputs in the movie has flaws.

Uttar Pradesh banned the movie March 1. The film was banned in Dehradun, Ambala, Sonepat and Rewari through oral orders of the local authorities.

Appearing for the producer, senior counsel Indu Malhotra urged the court to lift the ban saying the producer had spent Rs.410 million on production.

She told the court that the first few weeks after a movie's release were very crucial for a film from the point of recovering production costs. After that, she said people lose interest.

Later unscrupulous elements sell films on DVDs and CDs, jeopardising the prospect of the film's long run in cinema halls.

Challenging the ban in the three states, Malhotra contended that once the Censor Board of India clears a movie, state governments should not interfere.

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