T.S. Doabia, J.
1. The petitioner aged 25 years is a student of M.B.B.S. He is residing at Chetakpuri, Gwalior. He has filed this public interest litigation and is aggrieved against the manner in which obscene display of female figure is being made by newspapers, magazines and other video medias. According to him these publications are offensive to decency, modesty and are lewd and repulsive. All publications to which reference has been made in the petition are being published from places which do not fall within the State of Madhya Pradesh. However, this is not the ground for rejecting this public interest litigation because these publications appear to be available in this State as some of these form part of the record of this petition.
2. So far as the locus standi of the petitioner to move this Court by way of public interest litigation is concerned, there is no doubt about it. Such a right was recognised in the case of R. v. Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Ex parte Blackburn, (1976) 1 SLR 550. Lord Denning makes a reference to this in his book 'The Discipline of Law', London Butterworths, 1979. This was a case where one Mr. Raymond Blackburn, a former Member of Parliament sought intervention of Court on the ground that cinematographic films were being exhibited in the area of Greater London Council and these were having a telling effect on the society. It was his contention that he has children who may be harmed by the exhibition of these films. At page 126 of the book there is a quotation from the judgment in R. v. Commissioner of the Metropolis (supra) which is reproduced below :
"I regard it as a matter of high constitutional principle that if there is good ground for supposing that a government department or a public authority is transgressing the law, or is about to transgress it, in a way which offends or injures thousands of Her Majesty's subjects, then any one of those offended or injured can draw it to the attention of the Courts of law and seek to have the law enforced, and the Courts in their discretion can grant whatever remedy is appropriate."
It was further observed :
"In my opinion, therefore, Mr. Blackburn has made out his case. He has shown that the GLC have been exercising their censorship powers in a manner which is unlawful; because they have been applying a test which is bad in law.
"If they continue with their present test and in consequence give their consent to films which are grossly indecent; they may be said to be adding and abetting a criminal offence. In these circumstances this Court can and should issue an order of prohibition to stop them."
3. Thus the petitioner does possess locus standi to institute public interest litigation. But the question is which is the appropriate forum. Answer is that the petitioner must resort to the remedies which are amply provided for by the Parliament and State Legislatures in various statutory provisions. This Court is hardly a forum for seeking relief sought or by the petitioner.
4. Before we go further let us examine what is obscene and whether the ordinary law of land provides a remedy for this. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the publication of obscene material and the consequences of its publication. This section reads as under :-
"292. Sale, etc. of obscene books etc. - (1) For the purpose of sub-section (2) book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the purient interest or if its effect, or (where it comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items, is if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.
(a) sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation, or for purposes of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation, makes, produces or has in possession any obscene book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, representation or figure or any other obscene object whatsoever, or
(b) imports, exports or conveys any obscene object for any of the purposes, aforesaid, or knowing or having reason to believe that such object will be sold, let to hire, distributed or publicly exhibited or any manner put into circulation, or
(c) takes part in or receives profit from any business in the course of which he knows or has reason to believe that any such obscene objects are, for any of the purposes, aforesaid, made, produced, purchased, kept, imported, exported, conveyed, publicly exhibited or in any manner put into circulation, or
(d) advertises or makes known by any means whatsoever that any person is engaged or is ready to engage in any act which is an offence under this section or that any such obscene object can be procured from or through any person, or
(e) offers or attempts to do any act which is an offence under this section,
shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, and with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, and, in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and also with fine which may extend to five thousand Rupees."
Thus, when obscene material was possessed and sold by a firm of Book-sellers in Bombay, the machinery of law stepped in. One of the partners was punished for selling obscene books and a fine of Rs. 20 was imposed. In default simple imprisonment for one week was ordered. The second partner was additionally punished for the offence of possession also. This matter ultimately came before the Supreme Court in the case of Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1965 SC
881. The observations made by Hidayatullah, J., as his Lordship was then, are illuminating and illustrative. These may be noticed :
"(14) The Indian Penal Code borrowed the word from the English Statute. As the word "obscene" has been interpreted by English Courts something may be said of that interpretation first. The Common Law offence of obscenity was established in England three hundred years ago when Sir Charles Sedley exposed his person to the public gaze on the balcony of a tavern. Obscenity in books, however, was punishable only before the spiritual Courts because it was so held down to 1708 in which year Queen v. Read, (1708) 11 Mod 112 Case No. 205 QB was decided. In 1727, in the case against one Curl it was ruled for the first time that it was a Common Law offence; R. v. Curl, (1927) 2 Stra. 788 KB. In 1857 Lord Campbell enacted the first legislative measure against obscene books, etc. and his successor in the office of Chief Justice interpreted this statute (20 and 21 Viet. C. 88) in Hicklin's case, 1868-3 QB 360. The section of the English Act is long (they were so in those days), but it used the word "obscene" and provided for search, seizure and destruction of obscene books, etc., and made their sale, possession for sale, distribution, etc. a misdemeanour. The section may thus be regarded as substantially in part materia with Section 292, Indian Penal Code in spite of some differences in language.
"In Hicklin's case, 1868-3 QB 360 the Queen's Bench was called upon to consider a pamphlet, the nature of which can be gathered from the title and the colophon which read : "The Confession Unmasked, showing the depravity of Romish priesthood, the equity of the confessional, and the questions, put to females in confession." It was bilingual with Latin and English texts on opposite pages and the latter half of the pamphlet according to the report was 'grossly obscene, as relating to impure and filthy acts, words or ideas.' Cockburn C. J. laid down the test of obscenity in these words :
".....I think the test of obscenity is this whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of the sort may fall......It is quite certain that it would suggest to the minds of the young of either sex, or even to persons of more advanced years, thoughts of a most impure and libidinous character."
"(15) This test has been uniformly applied in India."
Thus the notions of obscenity are very much known to in this country and the ordinary courts are competent to deal with any attempt to corrupt or pollute the society at large.
4A. It may further be seen that so far as the publication in newspapers, magazines are concerned, these are to be printed and published within the four corners of the limits prescribed by law. Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 (hereinafter referred to as 1867 Act) is one such provision. Every newspaper or a magazine which is printed and published in this country has necessarily to be sent to the Governmental authorities. Section 9 of the 1867 Act specifically provides that copies of books printed must compulsorily be delivered gratis to Government. Once these publications are so available to the Governmental authorities and it is found that there is something obscene in it, that machinery of law can always be set into motion.
5. There are other statutory provisions also which provide ample remedies for dealing with the problems which are sought to be highlighted in this petition. Press Council Act, 1978 is one such provision. This Act deals with the code of conduct of those who print and publish the newspapers and news magazines. Section 13 of the Act indicates the objects and functions of the council. One of the functions of the council is to build up a code of conduct for newspapers, news agencies and journalists in accordance with high professional standards. The power to censure is vested in the council under Section 14 of the Act. Thus on receipt of a complaint if the council has reason to believe that a newspaper or news agency has offended against the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste or that an editor or a working journalist has committed any professional misconduct, the council may, after giving the newspapers or news agency, the editor or journalist concerned an opportunity of hearing and after holding an inquiry in such manner as may be provided by regulations made under the aforesaid Act, and if it is satisfied that it is necessary so to do, may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist, as the case may be.
6. So far as display in the video media is concerned, there is again an Act which covers this subject as well. Cinematograph Act, 1952 provides for establishment of a Board of Film Censors and for issuance of Certificate sanctioning films for public exhibition. The residuary power has been vested in the Central Government to call for any record in any proceedings in relation to any application pending or which has been decided by the Board of Film Censors. Thus, any person who feels that a wrong certificate has been given to a film can approach the Central Government for relief.
7. In this case all that the petitioner has done is that he sent a letter annexure P/1, to the authorities mentioned therein. Copies of this have been sent to the Senior Superintendent of Police, District Collectors all over the country. This is reflected from the endorsements made in Annexure P/l. It is apparent that annexures which form part of this writ petition were never forwarded to any of the authorities to whom the letter Annexure P/l was addressed. The petitioner as such has failed to set in motion the machinery of law provided under the ordinary law of the land. We are of the view that ample safeguards have been provided under the law of land to see that obscene literature is not printed, published or distributed. The petitioner should approach the authorities constituted under the law with a view to deal with this problem.
8. In view of what has been stated above, no direction is called for from this Court in exercise of our extraordinary jurisdiction. The writ petition is without any merit and is dismissed.
S.K. Chawla, J.
I wish to touch on one more aspect.
The petitioner is making a prayer for a futile writ. He seeks a writ commanding that publication of obscene literature shall stop, that female figure shall not be exhibited in any advertisement nor shall the same be exhibited in a semi-nude condition and further that nothing obscene shall be shown on Doordarshan (D.D.). Such kind of general directions or commands not addressed to any particular authority and without regard to any particular matter, would be meaningless and unenforceable. No Court would sit solemnly to make such directions any more than would it give such general directions as that thefts, robberies or other offences shall not be committed or that public or statutory duties shall always be performed by public authorities. I agree that the present petition properly deserves to be dismissed in limine.
ORDER By the Court
The present petition is dismissed in limine.