The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on publication and circulation of Malayalam novel ‘Meesha’ written by S Hareesh after it was alleged that it insulted Hindu women.
The judgment was pronounced by a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, who said 'the writer's imagination must enjoy freedom'. The bench added that “subjective perceptions about a book should not be allowed to enter legal arena when it comes to censorship,” reported Bar and Bench.
Petitioner N Radhakrishnan sought the banning of the publication or circulation by internet or propagation of the dialogue between two characters in the novel, which he claimed insults Hindu women. He had also prayed for a ban on further publication of the novel.
The excerpt that drew criticism from right-wing outfits is a conversation between two characters in the novel, where they suggest that women who go to temples are subconsciously making a declaration that they are ready for a sexual relationship. The character also says that women, when they fail to turn up in the temple for four or five days in a month, are not ready for it on those days.
The apex court on 2 August had reserved its order on the petition. The Supreme Court said that the culture of banning books impacts the free flow of ideas and should not be taken recourse to unless they are hit by Section 292 of the IPC that prohibits obscenity.
The court gave expression to its apparent reluctance to interfere with the passage being sought to be taken off as counsel Gopal Shankarayanan told the court that the passage they were seeking to be expunged makes insinuations against the priestly class.
The novel was being serialised by Mathrubhumi Weekly before being withdrawn by the author. Hareesh had said that it all started after suspected right-wing activists posted on his Facebook page that the novel was an "insult" to Hinduism.
He also told a Malayalam TV channel that he is unable to and too weak to take on the people as threats have started to come against him and his family and withdrew it from further serialisation. Fearing a bigger backlash, Hareesh had also shut down his Facebook account.
Following the threats, the author had drawn support from political circles, including former Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan, leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
Sahitya Akademi, in August, vociferously expressed solidarity with writers after at least 26 heavyweight authors urged Indias National Academy of Letters to condemn repeated ongoing threats to Hareesh. A collegium of heavyweight and multiple award-winning writers such as Nayantara Sahgal, Keki Daruwalla, K. Satchidanandan, Ritu Menon, Jerry Pinto and Meena Alexander, among several others, had written to the Akademi under the banner of Indian Writers' Forum, urging it to condemn such instances.
Meanwhile, the novel has been published by DC Books and is currently available in bookstores across Kerala. The novel, the publisher confirmed, had retained the controversial part. Ravi Deecee, the CEO of DC Books told IANS that the publisher had also received over 2,000 messages of threats, violence and intimidation regarding the novel.
With inputs from IANS.
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Updated Date: Sep 05, 2018 11:25:23 IST