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Papers can carry adult material: SC

SC rules such a ban will deprive the adults of their share of entertainment, reports Satya Prakash.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2006 02:55 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to ban the publication of 'obscene' photographs and other such material considered harmful to young and adolescent mind in newspapers, saying it would deprive the adults of their share of entertainment.

A Bench of Justice A. R. Lakshmanan and Justice Tarun Chaterjee, however, asked the government to look into the request made by the Press Council of India to make certain amendments to the Press Council Act to provide teeth to the watchdog to punish newspapers violating guidelines.

The Bench said, "an imposition of a blanket ban on the publication of certain photographs and news items will lead to a situation where the newspapers will be publishing material which caters only to children and adolescents and the adults will be deprived of reading their share of entertainment, which can be permissible under the normal norms of decency in a society."

The Court dismissed a PIL filed by advocate Ajay Goswami on the ground that publication of such material was already prohibited under the existing laws and the newspapers, including the Hindustan Times, were conscious of their responsibilities towards children. It also took note of the fact that HT were also publishing HT Next, a newspaper for school children.

It said "in our view, any steps to ban publishing of certain news pieces or pictures would fetter the independence of free press, which is one of the hallmarks of our democratic set up," Maintaining that the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is subject to certain reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2), the Bench said, "the petitioner has failed to establish the need and requirement to curtail the freedom."

Goswami, who had annexed certain clipping from HT and the Times of India in support of his case against publication of 'obscene' material, had requested the court to lay down detailed guidelines for all the newspapers in this regard.

However, the court said, "The fertile imagination of anybody especially of minors should not be a matter that should be agitated in the court of law." It rejected Goswami's arguments saying, "Hypersensitive persons can subscribe to many other newspapers of their choice that are not against the standards of morality of the concerned person."

The Bench said, "No news item should be viewed or read in isolation. It is necessary that publication must be judged as a whole.”

Observing that "per se nudity is not obscenity", the Bench said where art and obscenity are mixed, what must be seen is whether the artistic, literary or social merit of the work in question outweighs its "obscene" content.

Email Satya Prakash: satya.prakash@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Dec 12, 2006 20:01 IST