New Delhi(web team): The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that Mahatma Gandhi cannot be interpreted as 'a symbol' and artistic freedom cannot be cited to justify vulgar and obscene expletives attributed to the father of nation.
The court also said it was the collective responsibility of the nation to respect him and the community standard test are higher when it comes to Gandhiji. The court also hinted that it will decide the limit of freedom in the literary work.
“Mahatma Gandhi is not a symbol. He is neither a mythical nor a mythological character, and abusive, vulgar and obscene words cannot be used under the garb of poetic freedom. Such words can be used in a fiction character but not in Gandhi's case,” the bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant observed during the day-long arguments placed by senior advocates Gopal Subramaniam and FaliS Nariman.
The court’s observation came on the pleas of a bank employee Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar who sought quashing of the case against him for publishing a “vulgar and obscene” Marathi poem associated with Gandhi and his ideology.
Questioning the defence of senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam for his client Tujapurkar that artistic freedom could only be curtailed by the constitutional and statutory provisions and not by the haloed figures and that the poem was not an attempt to vulgarise Gandhi, the bench said, “You cannot respect an idealogy but vulgarise the man (Gandhi) who gave the idealogy to the whole country.”
The bench said, “You can lampoon, satire or criticise the historical personalities but you can’t attribute expletives to them...”
Referring to the Marathi poem ‘Gandhi Mala Bhetla Hota’ (I met Gandhi), written by Vasant Dattatray Gurjar in 1984, the court rejected Subramaniam’s argument saying, “These words can be used in a fiction character but not in Mahatma Gandhi's context. When Gandhiji comes in, it matters...”
During the proceedings, Justice Misra wrote a poem on a piece of paper and handed it over to the senior lawyer for his reaction to it.
After noticing that Subramaniam was quiet for a while, Justice Misra said Gandhiji is placed at a very high pedestal in our country.
Meanwhile, amicus curiae Nariman told the bench that individuals do figure in write-ups and poems but use of vulgar words is not permitted in the article or poem on Mahatma Gandhi or his ideology.
Urging the court to examine the issue only limiting to Gandhi, Nariman said if the court order includes all historical personalities, then they will be misused. He also suggested the court to quash the case against Tuljapurkar as he had tendered apology twice.
He cited the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act which prohibits the pictorial use of some personalities, including Mahatma Gandhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji, and names of some international organisations also.
A petition was filed by Tuljapurkar seeking quashing of the case against him lodged by Patit Pawan Sanghtan for publishing Gurjar’s “vulgar and obscene” poem in 1994 under Section 292 of IPC. He was the editor of bank’s in-house magazine ‘Bulletin’ in which the poem was published.
The court reserved its verdict in the case.
'Can't put words in somebody's mouth'
The difference between "freedom of idea" and "freedom of words" has to be understood, the bench said and posed that though a person may have liberty of thought, but could these be put in an indecent manner in somebody's mouth.
The bench further said that while projecting a view, one cannot put "abusive" words in a person's mouth to "accentuate the sensationalism".