Supreme Court decries practice of banning books

Supreme Court decries practice of banning books

Published:02 August 2018

New Delhi | The Supreme Court today decried the practice of banning books saying that it restricts the free flow of ideas and literary works can be banned only when they violate the law.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also reserved its order on a plea seeking a ban on the publication of Malayalam novel "Meesha" (moustache) on the ground that it allegedly depicts temple-going Hindu women in derogatory light.

"The culture of banning books restrict free flow of ideas," the bench said, adding that ban can be imposed under certain circumstances like if they violated provisions like section 292 of the IPC.

Section 292 of the IPC deals with banning sale of "obscene books, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object" as they "tend to deprave and corrupt person, who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it".

"You are giving undue importance to this kind of stuff. In the age of the internet, you are making this an issue. It is best forgotten," the bench said.

The plea filed by Delhi resident N Radhakrishnan had sought to omit excerpts from the novel written by S Hareesh.

The Centre and the Kerala government both opposed the petition saying that free speech cannot and should not be curtailed.

Lawyer Gopal Shankarnarayan, appearing for Radhakrishnan, gave the examples of books like 'Polyester Prince' and 'Satanic Verses' and said that they are still banned.

He later sought the liberty to withdraw the plea which was denied by the bench.

Earlier, the court had agreed to hear the plea seeking a ban on the publication of "Meesha".

The plea has claimed that certain parts of the novel, authored by S Harish, had created controversy last month.

The petitioner, N Radhakrishnan, has also alleged that certain comments in the book about Brahmins, who perform 'puja' in the temples, amounted to "castiest slur".

It has also alleged that the Kerala government has not taken necessary steps to stop the publication, on line sale and dissemination of the novel.

"The publication caused public outburst and protests across the nation, especially in the state of Kerala as the matter was published in Malayalam language. Post the publication of the incriminating article, Hindu women visiting temple were subjected to ridicule and embarrassment through various social media platforms," the plea has alleged.

"Trolls, which appeared and were circulated on social media, have caused deep pain and anguish to the temple going Hindu believers," it claimed.

The petition claimed that if the government fails to take appropriate action, it would indirectly invite the public to react and it would not be far before there is "a 'Charlie Hebdo' kind of backlash in India".

In January 2015, two persons had attacked the office of French satirical weekly newspaper 'Charlie Hebdo' in Paris, accusing the paper of hurting religious sentiments. 12 people were killed in the incident.

"...ensure that no person under the guise of freedom of speech and expression as envisaged under the Constitution be permitted to meddle with the communal fabric of the nation and fix responsibility for such work on the person or medium promoting or propagating such materials," the plea has said.

The novel was being published in a serialised form in a Malayalam periodical. The publication of subsequent parts of the novel in the periodical was discontinued after the controversy.


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