The licence-quota-permit raj may have been consigned to the dustbin (at least in theory), but Victorian regulation runs deep in the Indian psyche, especially when it comes to the media: films, television, newspapers, books, art.
Don’t like M.F. Husain‘s painting? Just hound him out.
Don’t like a newspaper report? Smash the skulls out.
Don’t like a scholar’s biography? Burn down the library.
Don’t like a journalist’s views? Ransack his house.
Don’t like a scholar’s opinion? File a criminal case.
Don’t like Savita Bhabhi‘s advances? Just get it banned.
Don’t like Balika Vadhu. Sharad Yadav will take up your cause.
And so on and on.
All last week, the honourable members of the Parliament of India, having solved all the problems facing this large and great country—hunger, poverty, malnutrition, disease, deprivation, illiteracy, violence, corruption—were frothing at the mouth about Sach ka samna, an execrable television show out of the Rupert Murdoch stable.
Yesterday, a division bench of the Delhi High Court comprising chief justice A.P. Shah and Justice Manmohan delivered the moral police—the only police force which has no trouble finding new recruits—a stinging lesson in life and liberty.
“In this land of Gandhi, it appears that nobody follows Gandhi… Follow the Gandhian principle of ‘see no evil’. Why do you not simply switch off the TV?
“We have very good advice for you. You have got two judges sitting here who do not watch TV at all. It will certainly help. Individual ideas of morality are not the business of the court. We are not sitting here for moral policing… You approach the Parliament and get the remedy.
“The courts cannot be expected to deal with issues that involve different individual perceptions.”
“Our culture is no so fragile that it will be affected by one TV show. Moreover, nobody in his individual capacity can be allowed to take upon the social order and ask for directions.
“You are asking us to entertain an area which deals with perceptions and opinions. Further, morality yardsticks are to be decided by the government. We cannot decide the issue. We are not sure whether the show has brought out the truth of many people but it is certain that it has brought out the hypocrisy of various ministers and parliamentarians.”
Image: courtesy Savita Bhabhi
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