SC draws the line, reserves verdict on Mahatma poem

The poem ‘Gandhi Mala Bhetla Hota’ (I met Gandhi) allegedly attributed obscene and vulgar expletives to Gandhi.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | Updated: April 17, 2015 7:13 am
Supreme Court, Mahatma Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi poem,  Father of the Nation,  Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar, The supreme Court says can’t use expletives in the name of artistic freedom.

The Supreme Court on Thursday strongly disapproved of attributing obscene expletives to Mahatma Gandhi, stating artistic freedom cannot be a pretense to justify such attributions to the Father of the Nation, who stood at a “higher pedestal”.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said there was certainly a difference between “freedom of ideas” and “freedom of words” and that a person, under the pretext of liberty of thoughts, cannot put abusive words in somebody else’s mouth to “accentuate the sensationalism”.

“Is it not a collective responsibility of the nation to respect Mahatma Gandhi? What is this? You cannot respect an ideal but can vulgarise the man who gave these ideals in the garb and guise of artistic freedom,” the bench said.

The court said this as it reserved verdict on a petition by Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar, editor and publisher of a bulletin magazine of All India Bank Employees Association. He had challenged his prosecution for publishing in 1994 a poem by Marathi poet Vasant Dattatray Gujjar. The poem ‘Gandhi Mala Bhetla Hota’ (I met Gandhi) allegedly attributed obscene and vulgar expletives to Gandhi. The Bombay HC had dismissed Tuljapurkar’s plea to drop prosecution under Section 292 (sale, publication of obscene books) of the IPC. The top court, however, stayed the proceedings in 2010. Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Tuljapurkar, argued that freedom of ideas can only be enjoyed through words, and maintained that people, who know Marathi, say that the poem is just satirical. He contended that artistic freedom could only be curtailed by constitutional and statutory provisions and not by the halo of historic personalities.

The bench retorted: “If some were to put these words in the mouth of Queen Victoria how would the British have reacted? Linguistic freedom is not a problem but using the linguistic freedom to say something to Mahatma Gandhi is an issue”. It clarified that this was not a question of individual comfort of an artist but the “statutory and constitutional comfort”.

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appointed as amicus curiae, pointed out the Emblem Act protects Mahatma Gandhi from contentious depiction.

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  1. A
    May 15, 2015 at 10:26 am
    Then why non maharashtrians and some maharashtrians uses Chttrapati shivaji maharaj as only shivaji this is not done what Shivaji Maharaj done for Rayat or janta nobody can touches.
    1. K Narayana Pillai
      Apr 17, 2015 at 11:25 am
      I think supreme court made an error in its observation that "artistic freedom cannot be a pretense to justify such attributions to the Father of the Nation, who stood at a “higher pedestal” ". Attributing obscene expletives to any citizen is to be considered as a crime. In the eyes of law every one equal. MK hi's status as father of nation itself is being questioned. He is dubbed as British agent. But that won't give any one the right to abuse him. They can criticize him.
      1. S
        Apr 17, 2015 at 6:46 am
        Yes, Nobody has any right to abuse others using his/her freedom of speech/expression as a mask. Freedom of speech is acceptable till the person enjoying his/her right doesn't insult, abuse others or harm the targeted person anyway. Now a days, it seems that Freedom of Speech, Expression is being widely misused. If I abuse others in real world, they will most probably either file police complaint against me (it will be called as a valid reason in the eyes of law) or give me instant payback (Slapping etc.). Saying and Writing fulfills the same purpose. Then, Why police won't be able to initiate legal action against the abuser who is abusing others by misusing his/her right to Freedom of Speech/Expression? A person is only responsible for what he/she is saying/writing. The SC is absolutely right while differentiating between Use and Misuse of this Great Right. Waiting to see the Detailed Judgement of SC on Use and Misuse of Freedpm of Speech/Expression.
        1. S
          SUGUMAR S
          Apr 17, 2015 at 12:51 pm
          In front of consution everyone is equal.The supreme court exaggerated hi's image.People know who is Mahatma
          1. Y
            Apr 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm
            SC has to be careful here. Its judgement cannot distinnguish between satire on mythical figures, living figures, historical figure without definition of cut off history date. In summary, its judgement should in no way justify Charlie Hebdo killings. MAGA himself has written many slanderous things about himself in My Experiments with Truth. SC judges should read it before ping judgement. They will then realise MAGA would himself have taken the poem in his stride. SC should know that the poets fundamental right of freedom of expression is guaranteed by Consition.
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