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  India   All India  06 Sep 2018  Plea to ban Malayalam novel nixed

Plea to ban Malayalam novel nixed

Published : Sep 6, 2018, 6:06 am IST
Updated : Sep 6, 2018, 6:06 am IST

Creative voices cannot be stifled or silenced and intellectual freedom cannot be annihilated.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that an author’s right to freedom of speech and expression to convey an idea or thought cannot be interfered with. It refused to ban the Malayalam novel Meesha on the ground that it was denigrating women.

A three judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud dismissing a petition filed by N. Radhakrishan said, “We must remember that we live not in a totalitarian regime but in a democratic nation which permits free exchange of ideas and liberty of thought and expression.”  

Cautioning the courts from interfering with such freedom, the CJI said the culture of banning books directly impacts the free flow of ideas and is an affront to the freedom of speech, thought and expression.

Any direct or veiled censorship or ban of book, unless defamatory or derogatory to any community for abject obscenity, would create unrest and disquiet among the intelligentsia by going beyond the bounds of intellectual tolerance and further creating danger to intellectual freedom.”

The Bench was of the view that any such curb would gradually result in “intellectual cowardice” which is said to be the greatest enemy of a writer, for it destroys the free spirit of the writer. It shall invite a chilling winter of discontent. It said a writer or an author, while choosing a mode of expression, be it a novel or a novella, an epic or an anthology of poems, a play or a playlet, a short story or a long one, an essay or a statement of description or, for that matter, some other form, has the right to exercise his liberty to the fullest unless it falls foul of any prescribed law that is constitutionally valid.

The Bench said, “It is because freedom of expression is extremely dear to a civilized society. It holds it close to its heart and would abhorrently look at any step taken to create even the slightest concavity in the said freedom.  Literature can act as a medium to connect to the readers only when creativity is not choked or smothered. The free flow of the stream of creativity knows no bounds and imagination brooks no limits. A writer or an artist or any person in the creative sphere has to think in an unfettered way free from the shackles that   may   hinder   his   musings   and   ruminations.   

Creative voices cannot be stifled or silenced and intellectual freedom cannot be annihilated. It is perilous to obstruct free speech, expression, creativity and imagination, for it leads to a state   of   intellectual   repression   of   literary   freedom   thereby blocking free thought and the fertile faculties of the human mind and eventually paving the path of literary pusillanimity. Ideas have wings. If the wings of free flow of ideas and imagination clipped, no work of art can be created.

The bench after perusing the English translation of the novel said the character of `Meesha’ as has been projected shows the myriad experiences with different situations.  “The situations, as we find, can be perceived as certain sub­plots which evolved around the fundamental characteristics of the protagonist.  The theory of consistency of character as adopted by certain writers seems to have been maintained in the narrative.”

The CJI said, “The situations and the treatment of situations may be different but the basic response of the protagonist remains unchanged. All these, we say, can be from one reader’s point of view.  To another reader, it may   seem   that   the   sub­plots   have   been   enthusiastically contrived to bring in tempting situations to draw the protagonist in and to exposit chain reactions.  Appreciated from either point of view, it cannot be denied that it is a manifestation of creativity.”

 The court said a reader with mature sensibility would connect with the plight of the protagonist or may distance himself/herself by expressing the view that the projection is derogatory and hurtful to a section of people.   He/she treats the novel as scandalous and offensive. The Court is not to be swayed by any kind of perception.  One may have a grave dislike towards a particular apply the said litmus test, it is to be borne in mind that a book should not be read in a fragmented manner.  It has to be read as a whole.

Tags: supreme court, freedom of speech, malayalam novel