Topic: Chandrakant Kalyandas Kakodar vs The State Of Maharashtra

Chandrakant Kalyandas Kakodar vs The State Of Maharashtra
Equivalent citations: 1970 AIR 1390, 1970 SCR (2) 80 - Bench: Reddy, P Jaganmohan, Sikri, S.M. - Date Of Judgment: 25/08/1969

ACT:
Obscenity-Tests for determining-Penal Code Sec. 292.

HEADNOTE:
The appellant, the author of a short story and the printer and publisher of the story were convicted under section     292 I.P.C.    on a charge of obscenity.    Setting     aside     the conviction this Court,

HELD: It is the duty of the Court to consider     the article, story     or book by taking an overall view of the entire    work and to determine whether the obscene passages are so likely to deprave and corrupt those whose minds     are open to such    influences and in whose hands the book is likely to fall; and in doing so the influence of the book on the social morality of our contemporary society cannot be overlooked. Even so as the question of obscenity may    have to be judged in the light of the claim that the work has a predominant literary merit, it may be necessary if it is at all required, to rely to a certain extent on the evidence and views of leading litterateurs on that aspect. [82 D; 83 E--G]

To    insist    that the standard would always    be for     the writer    to see that the adolescent ought not to     be brought into contact with sex or that if they read any references to sex in what is written, whether that is the dominant theme or not, they would be affected, would be to    require     the authors     to write books only for the adolescent and not     for the adults What has to be seen is that whether a class,     not an isolated case, into whose hands the book,     article or story falls suffer in their moral outlook or become depraved by reading it or might have impure or     lecherous thoughts aroused     in their minds. The charge    of obscenity must, therefore, be judged from this aspect. [88 D, G--H] Ranjit    D'. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra [1965] 1 S.C.R., 65 followed.

Applying the above tests the story read as a whole     did not amount to its being pornography nor did it pander to the prurient interest. [87 A--B]

JUDGMENT:

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 170 of 1967.

Appeal by    special leave from the    judgment and order dated October 25, 1966 of the Bombay High Court in Criminal Appeal No. 805 of 1965.

S.S. Kavalekar,    K. Rajendra Chaudhuri     and    K.R. Chaudhuri, for the appellant.

H.R. Khanna, B.D. Sharma and S.P. Nayar, for respondent No.1.

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by P.    Jaganmohan Reddy, J. This appeal is     by special leave directed     against the judgment of the    Bombay    High Court.

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The     appellant is the author of a short story entitled Shama published in the 1962 Diwali Issue of Rambha, a monthly Marathi Magazine, which story is said to be obscene. Criminal proceedings were, therefore, initiated before     the first    class    Magistrate, Poona by the complainant Bhide under s. 292    I.P.C. against    the Printer and Publisher accused 1, the writer of the story accused 2 and the selling agent accused 3. The complainant stated that he had    read the aforesaid    Diwali    issue of Rambha and     found    many articles and pictures     in it     to be     obscene which     are calculated to corrupt and deprave the minds of the readers in general and the young readers in particular.     The Complainant further relented to several other    articles in the same issue such as the story of Savitri and certain cartoons but we are not now concerned with these because both the Magistrate as well the High Court did not think that they offended the provisions of s. 292     I.P.C.     the magistrate after an exhaustive consideration did not    find the accused guilty of the offence with which they    were charged and, therefore, acquitted them.     The complainant and the State filed appeals against this judgment of acquittal. Before    the High Court it was conceded that there was no evidence that accused No. 3 had sold any copies of     the issues    of Rambha and accordingly the order of acquittal in his favour was confirmed. In so far     as the other     two accused are concerned it reversed the order of acquittal and convicted the printer and publisher accused 1 and the writer accused 2 under s. 292 I.P.C. but taking into consideration the degree of obscenity in the passages complained of a fine Rs. 25/- only was imposed on each of the accused and in default they were directed to suffer simple imprisonment for a week. It was also directed that copies of the magazine Rambha in which the offending story was published and which may be     in possession     and power of the two     accused be destroyed.

The     allegation, against the accused is that certain passages in the story of Shama at pp. 111-112, 114,    116, 118-121, 127, 128, 131, and 134 are said to be obscene.     In support     of this the complainant examined himself and     led the evidence of Dr. P.G. Sahstrabudhe and Dr. G.V. Purohit in support of his allegation that the novel is obscene     and that the writer and publisher contravened the provisions of s. 292 I.P.C. Accused No. 1 stated that the story of Shama was written by an ;able writer which depicted     the frustration in     the life of a poet and denied that it     was obscene. The writer Kakodar, accused No. 2 claims to    have written     about    60 such stories. which are published in different periodicals by reputed publishers. He also denies that Shama is obscene and states that    he has     introduced certain characters in order to condemn the worst and glorify the best and it was never his intention to titillate     the sex feelings of the

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readers, but on the other hand his attempt was     to achieve the literary and artistic standard which was    in keeping with the style of some of the able and successful writers of Marathi literature. In support of his defence, he examined Shri Keluskar    and Prof. Madho Manohar D.Ws. 1 and 2 respectively.    The Court on its own summoned and examined Prof. N.S. Phadke and Acharya P.K. Atre. Both     the magistrate as well as the learned Judge of the     High Court were conversant with Marathi and they seem to have read     the story of Shama in the original, an advantage which we have not got. However, on a consideration of the offending passages in the story to which we shall refer presently, they came to different and opposite conclusions. It    is apparent that the question whether a particular article     or story or    book is     obscene or not does     not altogether depend on oral evidence because it is the duty of the court to ascertain whether the book or story or     any passage or passages therein offend the provisions of s.

292. Even so as the question    of obscenity may have to be judged    in the     light    of the claim that the work has a predominant literary merit, it may be necessary if it is at all required, to rely to a certain extent on the evidence and views of leading litterateurs     on that aspect particularly when the work is in a language with which     the Court is not conversant. Often a translation may not bring out the delicate nuances of the literary art in the story as it does in the language in which it is written and in those circumstances what is said about its literary quality and worth by persons competent to speak may be of value, though as was     said in an earlier decision,    the verdict as to whether     the book or article or story considered as a whole panders to the prurient and is obscene must be judged by the courts and ultimately by this Court.

What is obscenity has not been defined either in s.     292 IPC or     in any of the statutes prohibiting and penalising mailing, importing, exporting, publishing and     selling of obscene     matters. The test that has been generally applied in this country was that laid down by     Cockburn, C.J. in Hicklin's case(1) and even after the inauguration of     the Constitution and considered in relation to the     fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression this test, it     has been held, should not be discarded. In Hicklin's case(1) while construing statutes 20 and 21 Victoria, a measure enacted against Obscene books, Cockburn, C.J. formulated the test 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     publication of

(1) [1868] L.R. 3 Q.B. 360.

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this sort    may fail... 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, thought of most    impure and libidinous character."

This Court has in Udeshi v. State     of Maharashtra(1) considered the above test and also the test     laid down in certain other American cases.    Hidayatullah, J. as he then was, at the outset    pointed out that it is     not easy to lay down a true test because    "art has such varied facets and such individualistic appeals that    in the    same object    the insensitive sees only obscenity because     his attention is arrested, not by the general or artistic appeal or message which he cannot comprehend, but by what he can see, and the intellectual sees beauty and art but nothing gross."     It was also pointed out in that decision at p. 74, "None has so far attempted a definition

of obscenity because the meaning can be    laid bare without attempting a definition     by describing what must be looked for. It    may, however,    be said at once that treating    with sex and nudity in art and literature cannot be regarded    as evidence of obscenity without something more. It is not necessary that     the angels and saints of Michelangelo should be made to    wear breeches before they can be viewed.    If the rigid test of treating    with sex as the minimum ingredient were accepted hardly any writer of fiction    today would escape the fate Lawrence had in his days. Half the book-shops would close and the other half would deal     in nothing but moral     and religious     books which Lord Campbell boasted was the effect of his Act."

It is,     therefore, the duty of the court to consider     the obscene matter by taking an overall view of the entire    work and to determine whether the obscene passages are so likely to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to    such influences and in whose hands the book is likely to fail and in doing so one must not overlook the influences of the book on the social morality of our contemporary society. We     can do no better than to refer to this aspect in the language of Hidayatullah, J. at p. 76:

"An overall view of the obscene matter

in the setting of the whole work     would,     of course, be necessary, but the obscene matter must be considered by itself and separately to find out     whether it is so gross and     its obscenity     so decided that it is likely to deprave and     corrupt those    whose minds

are open to influences of this sort and    into whose hands the book is likely to fall."

(1) [1965] 1 S.C.R. 65.

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Referring to    the attempt which our national     and regional languages are making to strengthen themselves by new literary standards after a deadening period under     the impact of English, it was further observed at p. 77, "that where obscenity and art are mixed,

art must     so preponderate as to throw     the obscenity     into a shadow or the obscenity so trivial and insignificant that it can have no effect and may be overlooked. In other words, treating    with sex in a manner offensive to public decency and morality (and these are the words of     our Fundamental Law), judged of by our national standards and considered likely to pander to lascivious, prurient or sexually precocious minds, must determine     the result. We need not attempt to bowdlerize all literature and thus rob speech and expression of freedom. A balance should be maintained between freedom of speech and expression     and public decency and morality but when     the latter is substantially transgressed     the former must give way."

Bearing     in mind these observations and the tests laid    down in Udeshi's case,(1) we propose to examine, having regard to our national standards, the passages in Shama to ascertain in the     light of the work as a whole whether     the treat with sex in     such a way as to be offensive to public decency and morality as can be considered likely to pander to lascivious, prurient or sexually precocious minds. The     second     appellant writes about the life of a    poet Nishikant who left school in the days of freedom struggle, wrote revolutionary poems, but as the freedom struggle waned he did not join school as others had done notwithstanding his brother's advice that he should pass the metric so that he could be employed     in service.    As he    was mostly unemployed, he was living on his brother and on the bounty of his sister-in-law who was kind and considerate to    him. Nishikant, it will appear, is emotional, sensitive and     has the power to discern right from wrong. The story starts ,with his being employed as a teacher     and his meeting Sharma,     the' Music teacher in the school. His attraction for her and the opportunity she gives him to meet her alone in her room fills him with a sense of foreboding lest he may have to endure the pangs of suffering which     he had to undergo. in his two earlier affairs with Neela and Vanira. The poet recalls these     two affairs individually and we get the impression that the pain which he underwent should     not be repeated.    It is more as a repellent to    any further involvement with Shama that     these    experiences     are related.

(1) [1965] 1 S.C.R. 65.

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Neela who is about 17 years of age is the daughter     015 a distant maternal cousin of his mother. As she had reached the marriageable age, her father in Goa, Wasudeo who always treated Nishikant's mother like his own sister is anxious to get her married to some eligible youngman, but evidently the opportunity for choosing the right person was     remote. So he suggests to Nishikant's mother that Nishikant should come and bring Neela to Bombay to live with them where    they would    have better opportunity of choosing a youngman     for her to be    married. Nishikant who was appointed in a newspaper office was at first reluctant but his sister-in- law persuades    him and so he goes to Goa. When he meets Neela,    she had changed and was not as ugly as when he     had seen her earlier. The author then depicts the slow     but steady maturing of the love between them, the seeking of and getting of opportunities to be near to each other, their having to sleep in the same bed while on the boat coming to Bombay and ultimately falling in love with each other which developed during Neela's stay in Bombay. During Neela's stay with Nishikant's family the love     between her     and Nishikant became intense as a result Nishikant proposes to marry her and writes to her father for his consent.    They wait for a reply but unknown to Nishikant, Neela receives a reply from her father rejecting the proposal on the ground that Nishikant is unemployed and would not join Government service even though he had suggested it to him.     He says in that letter that poetry may bring him fame but would     not give him a livelihood.    As he was entirely dependant on     his brother     for his maintenance,    the father refused to    give his consent in the interest of Neela's happiness and    told her that he was coming back to fetch her. As Neela was in love with Nishikant but she knew that    she would not     be married     to him, she encourages him to bring their love to culmination. This state of affairs lasted for a few    days before    her father took her away. About two months later Nishikant receives an invitation card for Neela's marriage and thereafter he received another letter written by Wasudeo to his daughter to which we have earlier referred and which also. contained at the back of it    Neela's     message to Nishikant asking him to forget her.

Even after four years he was unable to forget Neela     and had taken to drinking and coming home late. He was idle for long spells and whenever he thought of Neela    he wrote a poem.    Then one day he was introduced to Vanita who was a graduate and a married woman who had left her husband. She was a critic of stories and novels. When they met, she     had praised     his poems and had invited him to come to. her    room ostensibly to    discuss his poetry. Vanita is shown as an oversaxed woman, experienced and forward, making advances and suggestions. Ultimately she and Nishikant have several affairs till one morning

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he finds that the person who had introduced her to     him was coming out of her room and when he went in he found Vanita    sleeping naked.     His spirit revolted seeing her in that condition. He was greatly upset at her recalcitrance when he asked her how many more men she had.    She replied that it had nothing to do with him, that he had got what he wanted    and she does not want     to be a slave to     any person.     He retorted with indignation that he did not    wish to see her face and walked out. He had then made up     his mind not to have any relations with any woman. It was with such unpleasant experiences that when he met Shama and was     attracted to her he    was hesitating     and avoiding meeting her alone but circumstances conspired to bring    them together and again another affair developed between     them.    He encourages Shama to sing, writes lyrics for her songs and when she gives a performance in school he arranges for a radio and gramophone representatives to be present     there.     Her music was appreciated and she began to get audition from these sources. It appears    one of     the school    teacher Kale had earlier attempted to make love to Shama and she     had slapped    him. When Kale informs Nishikant that     he knows about his affairs    with Shama, Nishikant gets angry and tells him that he knows how he     was slapped     by Shama for making advances to her. This enraged Kale and he seems to have taken his revenge by maligning the character of Shama to the Principal. As a result of this, the Principal dismissed her. Hearing this, Nishikant    gets angry, goes to the Headmaster and accuses him of being an accomplice of    Kale and leaves the    service. He then persuades Shama to start a music school, later gets     her engagements in films as a playback singer for which he     was asked to write lyrics.    Shama's reputation as a singer grows rapidly     in the Marathi public.     It was then that her uncle knowing     of it     comes to see her and     makes    insinuations against     Nishikant who is offended and hurt because Shama does not prevent her uncle but listens to him without a demur.    Periodical quarrels are witnessed because Shama becomes     more status minded, begins to think of     her wealth and position and moves into wealthy quarters all of which are against Nishikant's outlook and temperament. Both began to fall apart and the visits of Nishikant to Shama became rare.    Even though Nishikant lives in poverty, he is     too proud to ask her money and is not willing to live with     her on her conditions. He stays away from her, showing that he has pride, self respect and spirit of sacrifice. Suddenly a realisation comes to Shama that she had wronged Nishikant and that she owed everything to him, and therefore has an intense desire for reconciliation. In this state of affairs When she hears that he is taking part in the Kavi Samelan on the radio she gets into the car and asks her driver to drive fast

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to the radio station. On     tiffs    pitch of expectant reconciliation     and ultimate reunion the story ends. The    story read as a whole does not, in our view, amount to its being a pornography nor does it pander to     the prurient interest. It may not be of a very high literary quality     and    may show immaturity and    insufficient experience of    the writer, but in none     of the passages referred to by the complainant do we find anything offending public    order or morality. The High Court itself did     not consider the description of Neela when Nishikant meets     her in Goa (at p. 107) objectionable, nor the narration and     the description of the situation which is created for Nishikant and Neela on the way back to Bombay from Goa when for want of room they had to sleep on a single bed (p. 112)     as obscene. The passages at pp. 112, 114, 119-120 and 131 have been found by the High Court to come within the mischief of s.     292 I.P.C.    We have been    taken through     the corresponding passages in the English translation and even allowing for the translation not     bringing out     the literary or    artistic refinement of the original language, we find little in these passages which could be said    to deprave or corrupt those in whose hands the    book is likely to fall, nor can it be said that    any of     the passages advocates, as     the High Court seems to think, a licentious behaviour depraving     and corrupting the morals of adolescent    youth.    We do    not think that it can be said with any assurance that merely because     adolescent youth read situations of the type presented in the book, they would become depraved,    debased     and encouraged to lasciviousness.     It is possible that they may    come across such situations in life and may have to face them. But if a narration or description of similar situations is given in a setting emphasising     a strong moral to be drawn from it and condemns the conduct of the erring party as wrong     and loathsome it cannot be said that they have a likelihood of corrupting    the morals of those in whose hands it is likely to fall--particularly the adolescent. In the passage at pp. 113-114 Nishikant    takes Neela out to     show the sights of the city of Bombay but instead takes her to a picture where after the lights go    off, seeing    a soldier and his girl friend in front kissing, they also indulge in kissing.    Then as we said earlier, when the love between them develops Nishikant     wanted to marry    but the father of the girl was     unwilling. Neela realising that their love could never be consummated encourages him to bring it to a culmination. In this     way they enjoy unmarried bliss for a few    days until Neela's father takes her away.

We agree with the learned Judge of the High Court that there     is nothing in this or in the    subsequent passages relating to Neela,    Vanita and Shama which     amounts to poronography nor has the author indulged in a     description of the sex act    or used any

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language which can be classed as vulgar. Whatever has    been done is done in a restrained manner though in    some places there may have been an exhibition of bad taste, leaving it to the     more experienced to    draw the inferences,     but certainly not    sufficient to    suggest     to the adolescent anything which is    depraving or lascivious. To     the literate public there are available both to the adults     and the adolescents innumerable books which contain references to sex. Their purpose is not, and they have not the effect of stimulating sex impulses in the reader but may form    part of a work of art or are intended to propagate ideas or to install a moral.

The     concept of obscenity would differ from     country to country depending on the standards of morals of contemporary society. What    is considered as a piece of literature in France may be obscene in England and what is considered in both countries as not harmful to public order and morals may be obscene in our country. But to insist that the standard should    always be/or the writer to see that the adolescent ought not to be brought into contact with sex or that if they read any references to sex in what is written whether that is the dominant theme or not they would be affected, would be to require authors to write books only for     the adolescent and     not for the    adults. In early English writings authors wrote only with unmarried girls in view but society     has changed since then to allow litterateurs     and artists     to give expression to their ideas, emotions     and objectives with full freedom except that is should not    fall within    the definition of 'obscene' having regard to     the standards of contemporary society in which it is read.     The standards of contemporary society in India are also    fast changing. The adults and adolescents have available to them a large number of classics, novels, stories and pieces, of literature which have a content of sex, love and romance. As. observed in Udeshi's(1) case if a reference to sex by itself    is considered obscene, no books can be sold except those which are purely religious. In the field of art     and cinema also the adolescent is. shown situations which even a quarter     of a century ago would be considered derogatory to public morality, but having regard to     changed conditions are more taken for granted without in     anyway tending to debase    or debauch the mind. What we have to see is    that whether a class, not an isolated case, into whose hands     the book, article or story falls suffer in their moral outlook or become depraved by reading it or might have     impure     and lecherous thought aroused in their minds. The charge of obscenity must, therefore, be judged from this aspect. We do not think that any of the impugned passages which have been held by the High Court as offending s. 292 I.P.C. can

(1) [1965] 1 S.C.R. 65.

be said to pervert the morals of the adolescent or be considered to    be obscene. In this view, we allow     the appeal, set aside the conviction and fine. The fine if paid is directed to be refunded.

R.K.P.S.     Appeal allowed.