Author: Pratibha Rakesh Singh
Citation: 2010 (7) SCC 398
In the above given case, the facts are such that, Maharashtra Government in the book “Shivaji – Hindu King in Islamic India” which was written by Prof. James W. Laine had some derogatory, slanderous and defamatory statements against Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj which resulted in disharmony and disruption of peace among various communities and if the book would, by chance circulated more, it would go against the public tranquility and peace disruption of the citizens. There were many acts of violence in Maharashtra immediately after the release of the book. According to the government, the book contained scurrilous and defamatory statements about Shivaji resulting in a criminal complaint being made against Prof Laine and others involved with the book.
The main contention that the government had kept forward was that the book defamed Shivaji’s parentage and Bhosale Family. The statements said were prejudicial in nature and would lead into disharmony. If the book gets published it may create a great havoc among the followers of Shivaji. There could be a great possibility of creating enmity and chaos among people and will give an opportunity to the ones who have no concern with the matter to spread animosity, said the government. After the book was published, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against the author under Section 153 and Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code which is to be read with Section 34 of the same act. The respondents in return filed a petition under Section 96 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which is to be read with Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
- Did the State Government form a clear opinion on the notification it issued?
- Did the notification specify among whom the enmity was ‘likely’ to take place?
- Will the intention of the author be taken into consideration?
- Did the book have any malicious intention i.e., to spread enmity?
- Were the facts in the book inaccurate?
In the above given case, the government was not able to show its clear opinion upon the same, the main essential of the said section is to have a clear basis of reason/opinion on which they are filing the case. The intention of the author was an important aspect which is to be taken into consideration. Section 95(1) CRPC says that the condition needs to appear to the government, and not required to be proved as the State government made its notification based on the assumptions of the consequences. In its later part the Court said that words which seem to be triggering must be read from a rationale point of view without any prejudice. It should be judged by strong and rational men not to be said by the ones who have weak or destructive opinion of their own. The case was further dismissed by the Supreme Court
The notice was dismissed by the High Court of Bombay. The notification was quashed by the High Court in April 2007, on the grounds that the book did not contain anything that constituted an offence under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code, and that the State government had no evidence that the book had caused public disorder or harmed the maintenance of harmony between various groups. The High Court based its decision on the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Manzar Sayeed Khan vs. State of Maharashtra, which quashed the FIR filed against Laine under Section 153A of the IPC. The State then filed a Special Leave appeal. The Supreme Court’s decision was made by a two-judge panel. In the above-mentioned case, it is clear that the government stated its arguments based on mere words and they had no clear opinion on which they had placed their arguments. They kept their points based on assumptions and did not specify in their notification among whom the enmity or among which communities will there be enmity. The Court observed that the notification which was given by the government regarding the book did not clearly mention that which group of people or whose religious beliefs was harmed and what made the State Government believe that the book will cause disharmony and violence among the people. The order of the government could not be clearly presented and the grounds on which the government state its opinion were not convincing enough. As mere interpretation of words cannot result in creating disharmony in the society. The main point which the Court saw was the intention of the author who wrote the book. The author was found to have no malicious intention while writing the book. Court observed that the author specified only what was written in the history and nothing was written haywire. The Court later on put down certain guidelines with respect to Section 95 of CRPC, it stated that the government has to look into the context of the book and not a particular line or statement. There is no defence the prosecution if the writing is based on facts and various events occurred in history under Section 152-A. If the writing, has its basis based on true events and supported by various learned books/ sources, it cannot account to spreading enmity or hatred. The subject in question must be read in its whole; one cannot prove the accusation by relying on strongly worded and isolated portions, nor can one pick a sentence and make their own interpretation without reading the entire content together and connect them via a careful process of inferential reasoning, the Court observed. It was critical that the government explains the reason behind it relinquishing the content.
The Honourable Court noted that the government has to prove that the book has its contents which brings in hatred and violence and is punishable under Section 124-A, Section 153-A, Section 293, Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. If the government has its opinion stating the same it needs to notify the matter and mention the grounds of for its opinion. Section 95 says that nothing is an offence which causes a slight harm, a mere citation of words without any wrongful intention cannot be the grounds of prohibiting any document. In the above given case, the government was not able to show its clear opinion upon the same, the main essential of the said section is to have a clear basis of reason/opinion on which they are filing the case. Secondly, to forfeit a document may take away the basic Fundamental Right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution i.e., Article 19(1)(a) and even the Section empowers the police officer to forfeit the copy/book found anywhere which is against the Right to Privacy, this was said in the judgement.
In the case, State of Maharashtra v. Sanghraj Damodar Rupawate, wherein the Court dismissed the appeal. It stated that mere speaking of incidents which has no substantial evidence neither did the notification specify any such incidents of spreading of hatred among the communities. As the book had all facts from the history and credible authority it cannot be accounted for creating hatred or enmity. Secondly, there shall be rules which protect these authors from such instances wherein their Freedom to Express their views does not get infringed. There needs to be laws which protects such writings which are based on true facts. As India being a diverse country with various religious beliefs, there is a lot of history, there may be incidents such as movie or any paper based on historical facts which may sometimes make a negative impact on such beliefs, such author or filmmaker must be protected under a separate law.
Recently, a movie titled ‘Padmavaat’ was attacked as it is said to violate certain beliefs and culture. There was a lot of violence and havoc created disturbing the public peace and tranquillity. There were a group of people who threated the director, actor and various members of the crew. Hence to stop such violence, there is a need to bring in a special Act which protects the creativity of the makers.
 [(2007) 5 SCC 1]