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In this day and age, a microscopic scrutiny of the Government will show us we are only a deemed democratic nation and not one in actuality. If we truly had the rights that are listed in our supreme Constitution, there wouldn’t be any journalists and writers who fear for their lives simply because they have the tendency to express their opinions freely.
It’s a slippery slope when it comes to deciding what can be published, what is ignorant, what is moral, what is vulgar and what is obscene. Something that offends one person may not offend the other and vice versa. It would be a waste of time and resources for the courts to be preoccupied with matters that may hurt someone’s sentiments. Opinions must be encouraged and sought after, they must be welcomed even if the views oppose each other, healthy discussion is essential, and a person must be free to make art or literature in any form that they choose, without worrying about what someone else may think.
Plenty of cases come up in court, books are banned and movies are censored and it usually follows a disheartening familiar course. In these instances, the judgement delivered on September 5th, by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra hits like a breath of fresh air.
The Meesha case was widely discussed in the media before this judgement was given. This story, Meesha i.e., moustache, appeared in Mathrubhumi which is circulated throughout the country.
The dialogue in the story that raised the said controversy was, “Why do girls take a bath and put on their best clothes when they go to a temple?”, “They are unconsciously proclaiming that they are willing to enter into sex.” This triggered an extreme reaction in the media and the writer of the novel was even sent threats.
It was contended that the Mathrubhumi editor was at fault for not editing statements that showed temple going women in a bad light. It was further contended that it was a defamatory and degrading publication which caters to perverted and communal minds and that it needs to be checked. Moreover, that it defiles the place of worship and causes the public to look down upon temple going women with contempt and ridicule. It was suggested that since this publication has the potential to disturb the public order, decency, morality and defames the women community, the Court should lay down guidelines to regulate and prohibit the same. It prayed for a mandamus to Union of India, Mathrubhumi and the State of Kerala to seize all copies of the same and issue a writ of prohibition to prevent further circulation.
Banning this book was considered as it was protested that a part of the book was indecent and that it offended the sentiments of women of a particular faith. The case of Devidas Ramachandran Tuljapurkar v. State of Maharashtra & Others was cited wherein it was held that there is no authority who gives licence to a poet. Similarly, in Raj Kapoor & Others v. State & Others, it was explained that liberty is the root principle and that fundamental freedoms would be impacted if morals were measured by statutes and courts and that it would be a risky operation.
It may seem like a usual occurrence but the issue is a deep rooted one. When will the bullying and coercion come to an end and when will our State truly step out of its totalitarian regime?
This decision being a milestone in this situation should not have been in the limelight in the first place. The violence that writers and artists are threatened with is a continuum without end. There seems to be no space for people to express themselves without expecting a slew of unjustified threats.
However, the court in this matter declared that we are a nation that permits free exchange of ideas and liberty of thought and expression and the judgement was concluded with Voltaire’s words, “I may disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
(2015) 6 SCC 1
(1980) 1 SCC 43