The Supreme Court has ruled that the government has the power to ban or forfeit any publication that endangers public order even if it means restricting the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
"It is true that forfeiture of a newspaper or book or a document is a serious encroachment on the right of a citizen, but if forfeiture is called for in the public interest it must without a doubt have pre-eminence over any individual interest," a bench of Justices B P Singh and H S Bedi observed while upholding the Karnataka government's decision to ban a vernacular novel.
The novel Dharmakaarana on 12th century saint Basaveshwara, also known as Basvanna, contained alleged derogatory references to the sage and was banned in 1995 by the state government following a public outcry.
It was banned by invoking section 95 of CrPC under which the government can ban any book or publication that contains objectionable matter that is intended to promote feelings of enmity and hatred between different classes of citizens.
Author P V Narayana and others challenged the ban in the Karnataka High Court, which upheld the government's decision. Following this, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.