In a significant ruling, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday held that the telecast of advertisements by TV channels claiming that the promoted items or articles have special, miraculous or supernatural properties is illegal.
The court held that the TV channels, telecasting such advertisements, are liable for punishment under the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.
The court also directed the state government and vigilance officers appointed under the 2013 law to register crimes by giving reports against persons, who are making such advertisements and those selling such articles.
Moreover, the HC directed the state government and Centre to create cells in Mumbai to see that no such advertisements are telecast on TV channels by separate advertisement or in the name of programmes in Maharashtra.
The court also said that the state government is required to ensure the telecast of such advertisements on TV channels is stopped immediately in coordination with authority under Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
The bench told the Central government that If such authority is not in place, it needs to appoint the same within one month.
A division bench of Justice Tanaji V Nalawade and Justice Mukund G Sewlikar passed the judgment on January 5 on a criminal writ plea filed by Rajendra Ganpatrao Ambhore, a 45-year-old teacher.
Senior advocates V D Sakpal and Hemant Surve, who represented Ambhore, stated that in March 2015, the petitioner came across advertisements on TV channels that were propagating that there were special, miraculous and supernatural properties in Hanuman Chalisa Yantra. It was contended that while the purpose of the advertisement was to promote the sale of the Yantra, it was a false propaganda to exploit the persons, who are superstitious by nature and sought action against the TV channel and those selling the articles.
However, Telemart Shopping Network Pvt Ltd, a TV channel based in Indore, Madhya Pradesh claimed that the Black Magic Act and The Television Network Act were not applicable in the present matter and could have sought remedies provided under the Consumer Protection Act.
The channel, through advocate Sachin Sarda, submitted that the rituals mentioned in the advertisement are normal Hindu practices and they cannot be called as a part of magic.
The court noted that Section 3 of the Act prohibits not only commission of act of black magic, evil practices etc., but also propagation, promotion of such practices and magic. “Thus, TV channels, which telecast such advertisements, also become liable under Section 3 of the Black Magic Act,” it held.
Referring to the pattern in which such articles are advertised, the bench observed, “The persons like respondent channels change the names of the companies, change the name of God to show that it is different Yantra and they change the name of ‘baba’ to continue the business, if some court prevents them from doing business in the name of one God or one baba. Considering this possibility, in this matter it has become necessary to cover the activities of such persons, like selling such articles and making propaganda for sale of such articles by taking the name of any God or baba”.
Justice Nalawade who authored the 27-page judgment said, “The objectives of the Act can be achieved mainly by means of education. The reformists like Mahatma Phule, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and others, who worked to remove evil practices and spread awareness against superstition in the society were born in this soil. It can be said that at least basic education is available to everybody in this State.”
The bench added, “Despite this, the scientific temper and the spirit of inquiry and reform (as per fundamental duty in Constitution) are not yet developed. Even many educated and highly educated people get attracted to things like mantra-tantra, black magic. Due to this superstitious approach of rich and poor, the educated and uneducated persons are being exploited by so-called Babas by selling articles by giving them names like Yantra, Ganda etc. Due to such a situation, even in a state like Maharashtra, which claims to be a progressive State and State of reformist, the Black Magic Act was required to be enacted.”
The court asked the Central and state governments to inform it within 30 days regarding the steps taken to implement its directions and disposed of the plea.