Last week, the Kerala High Court once again upheld the right to freedom of expression. Felix M A (petitioner) had filed a case against Grihalakshmi for the cover page of its March issue. The cover showed a woman breastfeeding an infant. The case was registered under Sections 3(c) and 5(j), III of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Rules, as well as Section 45 of the Juvenile Justice Act. But the High Court declared that there was nothing “obscene” in the image.
Justice Dama Sesadri Naidu noted, “We looked at the picture with the same eyes we look at the paintings of artists like Raja Ravi Varma. What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric c, so to say. Therefore, we can only be subjective about Ex.P1 magazine cover depiction.”
The bench, compromising of Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Sesadri Naidu, reasoned, adding, “…a provocatively titled chapter — Obscenity Lies in the Crotch of the Beholder — in [Abhinav Chandrachud’s] book Republic of Rhetoric: Free Speech and the Constitution of India, [explores] whether sexually arousing material [can] be banned merely because somebody might get addicted to sex? After all, there is much in the modern world, …, which is addictive, yet legal: cigarettes, alcohol, even chocolates, present easy examples.”
The judgement has been welcomed by all the progressive sections of the society. To quote Gilu Joseph, “Motherhood is a beautiful thing — a bond between a mother and child. People shouldn’t be sexualising the female body when she is feeding her child. It was my choice to pose for the feature because I believed it had a social importance. So stop staring at our breasts while we feed our hungry ones.”
Read more about the issue here.
Read the full judgement here.