Devidas vs State of Maharashtra

Devidas vs State of Maharashtra

Author: Poorvi Sirothia, Kirit P. Mehta School Of Law

Devidas vs State of Maharashtra

Court: High Court of Bombay in Aurangabad

Case NO: 2074 0f 2002

Bench: Aurangabad

Appellant: Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar

Respondent: State of Maharashtra & Ors.

Decided on: 18.2.2015


“In May 2015, the Indian Supreme Court conveyed a judgment in which it announced an affirmed vulgar poem on Mahatma Gandhi, along these lines, making another threshold for obscenity when the said issue is connected with historical personalities. In a judgment that runs more than 100 pages, the court likewise examined tests utilized for obscenity including the most established Hicklin Test along with over 50 odd decisions from different jurisdiction managing issues going from appropriateness of tests to the right to freedom of speech and expression. This article endeavors to bring out imperfections in the court’s thinking when it looks to make an exemption concerning generally decent figures which in itself is a debatable issue. It likewise brings up errors in the court’s comprehension of the community principles test. It suggests a progressively forward-looking and wide methodology, in which the tests for indecency are applied to keep the psyche the specific situation and the more extensive implications of the alleged obscene content.”


Obscenity, by and large, is an offense against public ethics, committed either by making indecent conduct or indecent publication. In India, ‘obscenity’ is an offense under (section 292) of the IPC. “However, what is obscene has been argued and debated for many years. With the more extensive reach of print media and the approach of the web, the meaning of obscenity is changing in its measurements. The current case is about more than 30 years old poem sonnet which has been announced obscene; expressing that the freedom of speech and expression is not” absolute. While obviously, the right to speak freely has certain restrictions, the purpose of the dispute is whether it was justified for this situation.

“The case concerns the appeal by a distributor/ publisher Devidas Tuljapurkar, editorial manager and publisher of an announcement magazine of All India Bank Association. He had challenged his prosecution for publishing in 1994 a rhyme by Marathi artist Vasant Dattatray Gujjar.” The sonnet “Gandhi mala Bhetla Hota (I met Gandhi)” “had supposedly contained obscene and impolite expletives to Mahatma Gandhi and the creator had been held liable by the court. The case principally addresses three focuses. To begin with, it brings up inadequacies of in-court examination of indecency. And then examines the court clarified concerning historically respectable personalities and brings up certain issues concerning it. The case finishes up by recommending a superior methodology by giving contentions for breaking down the matter by survey its unique circumstance and its impact on the intended interest group.”

Facts of the case

(Changing in the definition of obscenity) an erroneous analysis?

“The first, foremost case on obscenity was the Victorian-Era British case R. v. Hicklin in which the test for obscenity was set down, famously known as the Hicklin Test.” As indicated by it, “material was offensive on the off chance that it would, in general, debase or degenerate the individuals into whose hands it was prone to fall.” “The Hicklin Test was later received in the much-discussed Ranjit Odeshi case, in which Justice Hidayatullah maintained the restriction on the book” ‘Woman Chatterley’s Lover’ in India. However, the serious issue with the Hicklin Test was that the words “deprave” and “corrupt” “were very vague and broad. It concentrated on confined parts of the work being referred to, which made it more defenseless against being esteemed obscene. Moreover, it passed judgment on the work of its evident impact on vulnerable readers, for example, youngsters or feeble disapproved of grownups as opposed to survey it through the eyes of an ordinary person.”

“Over fifty years in cases, for example, GD Doordarshan and Anand Goswami the court changed its way to deal with handling obscenity issues, however, it was a year ago when the court in the Aveek Sarkar Case at long last hurled out the Hicklin test expressing the previously mentioned reasons. The court followed Roth v. The US which set out the” “contemporary community test” a more normal and functional test as indicated by which “to the normal individual the material taken as an entire applies to prurient intrigue.” “The Roth test is increasingly smoothed out as it ensures more right to speak freely as it accepts the issue all in all and sees whether the prevailing subject of the work applies to the prurient interest.”

In the current case, the court used the “community standard test” “to hold the appealing party liable, but it seems that it neglected to give any solid thinking with regards to how the said poem in question applies to” “prurient interest”. “It would appear that the court completely ignored the latter part of the test and arrived at a conclusion. Regardless of whether the former part of the test is utilized in separation, it is very obscure from the judgment concerning how a mocking poem on Gandhi can degenerate a person’s mind.”

“Besides, the court has neither attempted to incorporate the points of reference with the affirmed obscene poem nor has caused an endeavor to intricate regarding how to the poem was obscene in the setting of Marathi literature.” The court expresses that it has utilized the “contemporary community standards test” be that as it may; “it appears that it has followed the old methodology and proclaimed the poem obscene not from a normal individual’s perspective yet from a viewpoint of a person who is defenseless.”

Issues Raised by the appellant-

  1. “Regardless of whether there could be a reference to a historically respected character”;
  2. “Could that reference be by way of allusion or symbol”;
  3. “Could that reference be reported on in a review or a poem”;
  4. “Regardless of whether the origination and idea of wonderful permit licenses receiving an implication”; and
  5. “Regardless of whether any of the above could include attributing words or acts to a historically reputed character which could appear obscene to a reader.”

Issues raised by the respondent

  1. “The court should be a focus on its message. The poem must be appreciated in its entirely”.
  2. “He said that the poem is meant to agitate.”
  3. “If such person has passed into the annals of history should not be a reason to exclude him from becoming” anybody’s ruse of imagination.

The question before the court

“The question requires to be considered is concerning whether in the given boundaries, in the decisions alluded supra, what is the standard of morality in India, where the picture of the late Mahatma Gandhi, viewed as the father of the Nation, is regarded in high esteem by the public at large. The question of freedom and speech arises in front of the court.”

Judgment of court

“It is beyond debate that the concept of obscenity, for the most part, varies from nation to nation contingent upon the norms of ethical quality of contemporary society in various nations. As we” “would see it, in deciding on the topic of obscenity, the Judge, in any case, should attempt to put himself in the situation of the creator and from the view purpose of the creator the Judge should attempt to comprehend would could it be that the creator looks to pass on and what the creator passes on has any abstract and imaginative worth. The Judge ought to from there on place himself in the situation of readers of each age bunch in whose hands the book is probably going to fall and should attempt to acknowledge what sort of conceivable impact the book is probably going to have in the minds of the readers. A Judge ought to from that point apply his legal psyche impartially to choose whether the book being referred to can be supposed to be profane inside the significance of S.292, IPC by a target appraisal of the book all in all and of the entries griped of as revolting independently. Inappropriate cases, the Court, for dispensing with any abstract component or individual inclination which may stay covered up in the inner mind and may unknowingly influence a legitimate target appraisal, may draw upon the proof on record and consider the perspectives communicated by reputed or recognized authors of writing on such inquiries if there be any for his thought and fulfillment to empower the Court to release the obligation of making an appropriate evaluation”.”

Analysis of judgment

“In a clear judgment on the distribution of a poem on Mahatma Gandhi by Devidas Ramchandra Tuljapurkar, charged with an offense under segment 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Supreme Court broadly analyzed the test on the touchstone of right to articulation and discourse. This choice sends a reasonable message that under the garb of freedom of speech and expression and nobody can take freedoms and clearly”, it can’t give freedom to offend.

“The Supreme Court refuses to quash the charge against Tuljapurkar for publishing an allegedly vulgar and obscene poem on Mahatma Gandhi in 1994. The apex court excused the supplication of the bank representative who had tested the encircling of the charge against him for distributing the poem in an in-house magazine, of which, he was an editorial manager.”

A seat containing judges Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said one can’t be permitted to utilize indecent language for “verifiable regarded characters” like Mahatma Gandhi.

“The seat maintained the Bombay High” Court’s “choice of not suppress the charge of offer/distribution of vulgar books, surrounded against Devidas Ramchandra Tuljapurkar, saying that the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation didn’t permit an individual to cross contemporaneous network boundaries on fairness.”

“The Supreme Court decisions reaffirm the very much settled recommendation that the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation” isn’t an “absolute right yet it is consistently dependent upon sensible boundaries under 19(2) of the Constitution.”