New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that the culture of banning books was wrong as it affected the free flow of ideas.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justices Dipak Misra and Justices A M Kanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud made this oral observation while hearing a petition demanding a ban on certain excerpts in Malayalam novel ‘Meesha’.
The bench reserved its order on the plea filed by Delhi resident N Radhakrishnan, who sought a direction to delete certain portions from a novel by S Hareesh as it allegedly defamed temple going Hindu women.
The Centre and the Kerala government also opposed the petition saying free speech should not be curtailed. This novel - Meesha (moustache) written by S Hareesh was discontinued after protests.
The petitioner has objected to a dialogue between two characters in the novel, which allegedly insults Hindu women. He has also alleged that comments of the author about Brahmins amounted to cattiest or racial slur.
Justice Chadrachud told counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioner “such kind of stuff should not be given undue importance in this age of the Internet. You are making this an issue. It is best forgotten.”
The Centre and the Kerala government also opposed the petition saying free speech should not be curtailed.
Counsel cited the examples of books like “Polyester Prince” and “Satanic Verses” and said they still remain banned. The bench said both were different issues and could not be compared.
“We cannot make a virtue of banning those to ban this. Literary work is amenable to criticism. The culture of banning books directly impacts flow of ideas unless it hits Section 292 of Indian Penal Code. The characters are fictional in the book and we have to see the context in which the paras were mentioned”, the CJI added.
When it was brought to the notice of the court that a magazine run by a newspaper had serialised the novel containing the objectionable portions but stopped it after protests, the court asked the newspaper to reply within five days the English translation giving the theme of the book and the three chapters of the book carried by it.
The petitioner alleged that the state government, despite having come across an incriminating piece of so-called literary work by an author of a novel in a popular and widely circulated periodical, which is absolutely insulting, derogatory to temple going women, having a cattiest / racist slur had refused to initiate any action against the author or the periodical for hurting the sentiments of the Hindu faith followers.
The petitioner said in the incriminating novel titled as ‘Meesha’ (meaning of ‘Meesha’ in Malayalam is ‘Moustache’), the dialogues are not only defamatory to entire womanhood but also showed the temple going women in bad light.
“Unfortunately, the elected Government of State of Kerala, which is duty bound to protect the interest of everyone, did not take necessary steps to stop publication, online sale and dissemination of the novel. Hence, the present petition seeking a ban on the offending portions of the novel.”...