Just days after the Supreme Court of India heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a direction to prevent the publication and circulation of the controversial Malayalam novel Meesha, written by S Hareesh, for allegedly "showing Hindu temple-going women in a bad light", the petitioner has reportedly taken a U-turn.
According to B Balagopal from Reporter TV, the petitioner, N Radhakrishnan, told the apex court in a written submission that he did not ask for a ban on the novel, but only wants the offensive paragraphs in the novel to be removed. The petitioner had initially approached the apex court seeking to prevent the publication and circulation of the novel. However, in his new submission, the petitioner has changed his stance.
"The petitioner has not sought for the discontinuation of the chapter wise publication of the novel in the weekly, or a ban on the entire novel, which now stands published," the written submission reads.
The specific prayer is for the deletion of those paragraphs that are "insulting and derogatory to women."
"The freedom envisaged under Article 19 (1) (a) is not absolute and the same is strictly subject to the restrictions under Article 19 (2). On this premises, the novel fails all tests of public order, decency and morality. If not for the entire novel, the relevant paragraphs fails all those tests," reads the written submission, in possession with the channel.
The petitioner objected to a conversation between two characters in the novel that allegedly portrayed temple-going women in a derogatory manner. His complaint stated that the comments in the book on Brahmin priests in the temple were casteist in nature.
Meesha was being published in the Malayalam periodical Mathrubhumi in a serialised form. The portion of the book published on July 11 stirred up the controversy. However, Hareesh withdrew the book after receiving threats from right-wing groups in the state, who had claimed that parts of the novel insulted temple-going women and made casteist slurs against Brahmin priests in the temple. The novel was then published in full by DC Books.
While hearing Radhakrishnan's PIL, the SC bench had observed that there should not be a culture of banning books, unless it depicted something obscene and improper. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra also noted that the controversial portion is merely a sarcastic dialogue between two characters. The court has reserved judgement in the PIL. As per the directions of the bench, Mathrubhumi had submitted translated portions of the novel to the court.
In his submission, Radhakrishnan also commented on the English translation submitted by Mathrubhumi, arguing that it was "a much milder version" of what it is in Malayalam.
"However accurate it may be, a translation cannot bring in the punch that is caused by the language in which it is written. The true translation produced before the Hon'ble Court is a much milder version of the Malayalam original," the submission reads.