The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared hurdles for screening Padmaavat across the country from January 25 by staying the ban imposed on the film by Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
"Our constitutional consciousness is shocked if the exhibition of a film is guillotined like this," the top court said.
Acting on a plea by producer Viacom18 Motion Pictures, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud restrained any other state from passing any order to prohibit screening of the movie.
The court also relied upon a Delhi High Court judgement on Dhobi Ghat to assert that it is the duty of the state to maintain law and order that included providing protection to people involved in the exhibition of the movie.
Several groups from the Rajput community protested against the film's "improper" depiction of "queen Padmavati".
The court went ahead and passed an interim order on the producer's petition, disregarding repeated pleas by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
He contended that Padmavati is not just a woman. Distortion of historical character cannot be allowed in the name of freedom of speech and expression, he said.
Mehta sought time for the states to respond to the petition, saying the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) cannot consider the issue of breach of peace.
"Creative content is an insegregable aspect of Article 19(1) (a) (freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution...it has to be borne in mind that expression of the idea through the medium of cinema is right under the Constitution and the statutes," the bench said.
The court agreed to the contention by senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi that once CBFC has given its nod for release of the film, the state governments cannot intervene.
Salve said the states cannot decide to throw the certificate of all India release granted to the movie to the dustbin, otherwise, it would lead to a constitutional breakdown. Rohatgi said that states cannot assume the role of "super censor".
Salve pointed out that the film was based on a poem written by Malik Mohd Jayasi and was duly granted certificate by the CBFC. The court put the matter for further consideration on March 26.