Chennai: Coming out in support of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan who faced protests over a controversial novel, the Madras High Court on Tuesday held he should not be under fear and be able to advance the canvas of his writings and directed the state to form an expert body to deal with such matters of conflicts of views.
There was no binding force or obligation arising from the so-called settlement arrived at a peace committee meeting held with the intervention of state authorities on January 12 last year by which the author of the novel 'Madhorubagan' was forced to submit an unconditional apology and a quietus given to the issue, the court said.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanaraya, made the observations in its detailed judgement on a batch of petitions for and against the
Tiruchengode-based author who faced protests from Hindutva and caste outfits, over the novel and later announced in a Facebook post that the writer in him was dead.
“All writings, unpalatable for one section of the society, cannot be labeled as obscene, vulgar, depraving, prurient and immoral. There can hardly be any improper intent or motive assigned to the author in the present case, who even went backwards to ensure that the hurt feelings of all are assuaged," the bench said.
Dismissing a petition which sought to forfeit all copies of the novel in Tamil and its translated English version - One Part Woman- , the court said there was no necessity warranting such action.
The court in its order also cautioned the state that a clear distinction had to be carved out between situations involving the right to expression of an individual or a body of individuals as opposed to a routine law and order tension, where the state intervenes to diffuse the situation.
"Even in matters of this nature, the State may endeavour to diffuse the situation but not permit proponents of free speech, authors and artistes, as the case may be, to be put under pressure by surrounding circumstances.?On the other hand, the endeavor should be to preserve the rights of expression through other modes," the bench said.
Forming some guidelines for dealing with such matters, the court said the presumption in favour of free speech as envisaged under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution must be kept in mind if there were complaints against publications, art, drama, film, song, poem, cartoons or any other creative expressions, it said.
It also suggested formation of an expert body to deal with situations arising from such conflicts of views. In such matters of art and culture, the issue cannot be left to the police authorities or the local administration alone.
The bench also directed the state to ensure proper police protection where such authors and artistes come under attack from a section of the society and conduct programmes for sensitising officials on dealing with such conflicts of artistic and literary appreciation....