The controversy over on-screen smoking seems to have intensified, with the Centre on Tuesday saying Indian tradition does not promote smoking by women, in the Supreme Court.
Referring to Madhur Bhandarkar's forthcoming movie Heroine, senior advocate V Shekhar, representing the health ministry, told the SC that the notification allowing on-screen smoking with riders would be issued on September 14. The film's producer, UTV Productions, had questioned the proposed rule before the Delhi high court.
"Indian tradition doesn't permit a lady to smoke," Shekhar said, adding that the notification would be brought into effect after the HC refused to grant a stay on UTV's petition that indirectly sought to pre-empt the government move.
UTV had moved the HC against I&B ministry's August 2 letter to the Censor Board to advise filmmakers to display anti-smoking messages during the screening of the movie. On the basis of the same letter, the government is issuing a notification, Shekhar told the SC.
"UTV wanted to release the picture that shows the actress smoking," he told the court hearing the Centre's 2009 appeal against an earlier HC verdict that allowed filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt's plea challenging the government's restriction on smoking scenes in films.
On the appeal, the SC had in an interim order revived the government notification - struck down by the HC - that allowed smoking scenes as long as they do not glamourise it.
With any eye on his upcoming movie Jism 3, Bhatt's counsel had requested the court to dispose Centre's appeal. "If there are problems with the new notification, we can always challenge it," he said.
The bench fixed September 20 to hear the matter further.