It is not up to the Supreme Court to use its powers to ban books, which are a free expression of a writer’s thoughts and feelings about the society and world he lives in. Courts cannot be asked to gag free expression. The Supreme Court has always placed the fundamental right to free speech at the highest pedestal.
This is what the Supreme Court recorded in its two-page order while dismissing a petition to ban a book written by writer and activist Professor Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd called Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu .
The petition filed by advocate K.L.N.V. Veeranjaneyulu also took exception to a particular chapter in a book titled ‘Post-Hindu India’ called ‘Hindutv-Mukt Bharat’. The book is critical about the caste system prevailing in India, especially in the Arya Vysya community.
“Any request for banning a book of the present nature has to be strictly scrutinized because every author or writer has a fundamental right to speak out ideas freely and express thoughts adequately. Curtailment of an individual writer/author's right to freedom of speech and expression should never be lightly viewed,” a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud recorded in the order. The court dismissed the petition to uphold the fundamental right of free speech, “keeping in view the sanctity of the said right and also bearing in mind that the same has been put on the highest pedestal by this court”.
The court snubbed the petitioner, observing that his prayer to ban the book of Prof. Shepherd is rather an “ambitious” one. “When an author writes a book, it is his or her right of expression. We do not think that it would be appropriate under Article 32 of the Constitution of India that this court should ban the book/books,” the Supreme Court held.
Prof. Shepherd had recently challenged his detractors in the Arya Vysya community, saying he was prepared to withdraw his book of the representatives of the community were prepared to earmark 5% jobs in their establishments to Dalits, Adivasis and members from the washermen and barber communities.