Decks were cleared on Tuesday night for the release of actor-director Kamal Haasan's controversial Tamil movie 'Vishwaroopam' with the Madras High Court lifting the ban imposed by the Tamil Nadu government after protests by Muslim outfits.
Justice K Venkataraman granted the interim stay of the operation of the order made under Section 144 of the CrPC by district collectors across the state that had prevented the release of the movie made with a nearly Rs 100 crore budget.
"Considering the totality of circumstances, I am of the view that the order made under Section 144 of CrPC is liable to be kept in abeyance for the present," said the judge in his interim order after a day-long hearing.
However, Advocate General A Navaneethakrishnan told reporters outside the court that the court's order was not final and would be challenged.
The judge, who viewed the spy-thriller on Saturday, said the order has been passed considering the prima facie case established by Kamal Haasan, who had questioned the two-week ban, imposed after Muslim outfits were up in arms against its release claiming it portrayed their community in a bad light.
The court said it was surprising to note that all the District Magistrates/District Collectors of 31 districts, had taken a common decision and passed an order under Section 144 of CrPC "which appears to be strange."
".....In my considered view, no independent reason have been given by District Collectors and solely relied on the statement made by Muslim organisations," the judge said.
Haasan was not available for comment soon after the court gave him the much needed relief with estimates that he could have incurred a loss of Rs 30-80 crore due to the non-release of the film in the state.
The judge made it clear that the matter will be decided
on merit and in accordance with the law and "...Any expression made hereunder (today's order) shall not be viewed as a final decision..."
Observing that the orders under Section 144 CrPC were passed in view of the representation given by several Muslim organisations, he said their remedy was to approach authority under Cinematograph Act, 1952 to seek redress.
"... No doubt, for making a law and order problem, the Authority competent is entitled to make an order under Section 144 of CrPC but, that does not mean that section of society can curtail the fundamental rights of a citizen, but it has to protect the person whose fundamental rights are threatened to be violated," the court said.
During the hearing, Tamil Nadu government questioned the 'UA' certificate issued to the film and alleged that the certification of films itself was a "very big scam" and sought a probe into it by a law enforcing agency.
The Advocate General said the "UA" certificate to 'Vishwaroopam' was not issued by the Censor Board, but only by an Examining Committee not mandated by provisions of the Constitution.
Rejecting the charge, Additional Solicitor General Wilson said the certification was done by procedure and after cuts were accepted.
The court had on January 24 declined to grant any interim stay on the ban. The actor missed two deadlines for the film.
The movie first ran into rough weather after some theatre owners resisted the tech-savvy actor's decision to premiere the movie, made in Hindi and Telugu as well, on DTH platform ahead of its screening in theatres on January 11.
Haasan had held a special screening of the film for the Muslim outfit leaders, but failed to win their approval.