The Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking ban on a Malayalam novel ‘Meesha’ meaning Moustache. The bench comprising the outgoing Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar announced their views on the novel, which was being published in a serialized form in the Malayalam weekly “Mathrubhumi” before it was discontinued following the controversy which described temple going women in an obscene manner, causing insult to Hindu women. It also claimed that the comments of the author about Brahmins who perform puja in the temple amount to casteist/racial slur. The Chief Justice earlier observed that “the culture of banning books directly impacts the flow of ideas, unless it hits Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code”.

It was contended that the novel by S. Harish was offensive to Hindu priests, besides being insulting to temple going women. Controversial portions of the novel were also quoted. The court observed that the culture of banning books directly impacts free flow of ideas and is an affront to freedom of speech, thought and expression.

The bench observed that “any direct or veiled censorship or ban of a book, unless defamatory or derogatory to any community, would create unrest and disquiet among the intelligentsia by going beyond the bounds of intellectual tolerance and further creating danger to intellectual freedom thereby gradually resulting in ‘intellectual cowardicewhich is said to be the greatest enemy of a writer, for it destroys the free spirit of the writer”.

The outgoing CJI, Mr. Deepak Misra said, “We do not live in a totalitarian regime but a democratic nation that permits free exchange of ideas and liberty of thought and expression.”

Referring to the context and narrative, the bench observed that the language used in the dialogue cannot remotely be thought of as obscene and that the concept of defamation does not arise.

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