HC bench stops Vishwaroopam, stray violence mars screening

FP

Filmmaker Kamal Haasan's relief over securing a favourable verdict from the Madras High Court on screening his film Vishwaroopam was short-lived as a division bench of the court set aside the decision Wednesday, and the few theatres willing to show it either backed out or stopped mid-way apparently due to pressure from authorities and the threat of violence.

The bench of acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan set aside the interim verdict by Justice K Venkataraman who had ordered the lifting of the two-week suspension of the screening imposed by the state government.

The court asked Haasan's lawyers whether they had approached district collectors who had issued individual orders prohibiting the screening of the film citing the fear of violence. The lawyers said they hadn't, prompting the judges to note that officers should be allowed to exercise the powers vested in them.

As Advocate-General A Navaneetha-krishnan sought time to file a detailed counter before the single judge who passed the interim verdict , the bench said the counters could be filed on February 4 and the hearing could be on February 6.

The bench told Haasan's counsel P S Raman that he could either approach the district collectors with an appeal against the prohibition or wait for the final order by the single judge. Raman sought a copy of the order today itself, suggesting that the production house would now approach the Supreme Court.

In Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, without getting drawn into the specific controversy over Vishwaroopam, suggested that states should honour decisions of the censor board. He felt it was time to re-examine how states can be made to implement decisions which fall exclusively in the Centre's domain.

"In terms of entry 60 of list one, it is the Central government which exercises power through Central Board of Film Certification, which does certify as to which film is appropriate for exhibition and which is not," he said. Once the censor board takes a view, the state governments are incumbent to implement that decision, he added, citing the Supreme Court's ruling in the Prakash Jha case.

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