Apex court to hear plea against 'Jodhaa Akbar' ban

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New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on Tuesday a plea by producer UTV challenging the ban on screening "Jodhaa Akbar" in Uttar Pradesh and some towns of Uttarakhand and Haryana following protests by some Rajput organisations.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishna and Justice R.V. Raveendran Monday agreed to hear the plea after senior advocate Indu Malhotra, appearing for film producer UTV Software Communication Limited, told the court of the petition filed in the registry challenging the ban.

"Jodhaa Akbar", based on Mughal emperor Akbar and his 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 have been protesting against the film saying that Jodha was not Akbar's wife, but his daughter-in-law, and some have been saying that the portrayal of Rajputs in the film was not correct.

Malhotra told the court that the Uttar Pradesh government had banned the screening of the film in the state March 1 through a written order by the state principal secretary. Similarly, Uttarakahnd and Haryana had banned the screening in several towns.

Contending that the ban was a violation of their Fundamental Right of speech and expression, the film producer has moved the apex court invoking Article 32 of the Constitution.

UTV said that they have spent Rs.410 million just on producing the film and another Rs.40 million.

They said the first few weeks after its release is very crucial for a film from the point of recovering production costs as after that people begin to lose interest in the film.

They maintained that unscrupulous elements then begin selling the film on DVDs and CDs in the grey market, jeopardising the prospect of the film's long run in cinema halls.

Challenging the ban in the three states, the petitioners contended that once the Censor Board of India cleared the film, the state governments could not interfere with the screening.

UTV pointed out that as the film faced protests in Rajasthan, they moved the Jaipur High Court for direction to the state government for adequate security to be provided for screening the film.

The Jaipur High Court in turn on Feb 13 ruled that "the film having been released for public screening upon a certificate granted by the Censor Board of under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, should be allowed free screening and the state government should provide necessary security for the purpose".

Similarly, the Madhya Pradesh High Court too supported the film producer's right to screen the film through its order on Feb 26, 2008, the petitioner contended.

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