File Photo: Mahatma Gandhi (Agence France-Presse)
The Supreme Court today reserved its judgment on a petition filed by the editor of an in-magazine of the (All India Banks Association) which had published a satirical poem on Mahatma Gandhi but observed that it is a "collective responsibility to respect the Father of Nation".
"Is it not a collective responsibility of the nation to respect Mahatma Gandhi?" the court asked Gopal Subramaniam, the lawyer for the editor. "You cannot respect an ideal but vulgarise the man who gave the ideal in the garb and guise of artistic freedom," it said.
The poem titled 'Gandhi Mala Bhetla Hota' (I met Gandhi) written in 1984 by Marathi poet Vasant Dattatrey Gujjar, is a surrealistic satire in which the poet meets Mahatma Gandhi in several different social milieus in modern-day India and describes how the 'Gandhis' of today have strayed too far from his ideals and path.
The Maharashtra government had accused Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar, the editor, of obscenity and creating enmity between different sections after the poem was published by the magazine in 1994.
The trial court and the Bombay High Court discharged the editor of all charges except obscenity, after which he appealed in the Supreme Court. He argued that it is a literary work and freedom of expression can't be curtailed.
Senior lawyer Fali Nariman, appointed amicus curiae to assist the court, argued that the sentiments of people will have to be respected and said there is no artistic license to use Mahatma Gandhi and put vulgar words into his mouth.