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Modernity or Obscenity? A need for evaluation over media's abuse of power and freedom.

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Modernity or Obscenity? A need for evaluation over media's abuse of power and freedom.

Media brings the world on our doorstep by keeping us updated over current affairs, history, and science and about each and everything that adds to our knowledge but however the limitation is that we cannot differentiate information from misinformation and disinformation. Due to cut throat competition between every branch of media and to get the most viewers, readers, TRP'S, etc, there is a need for speed for getting stories, lucrative and captivating stories for which there is often a dereliction of duty at the end of media people. Our Indian Constitution has guaranteed a fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article.19 (1) (a), which is repeatedly exploited by these men to justify obscene or indecent news published or broadcasted by them. It is undeniable that freedom of expression needs adequate "breathing space" but having space by compromising morality and justifying obscenity on grounds of contemporary social norms and values is indefensible. Accompanying the provision of Article 19 (1) (a), Constitution has also made provision imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, public decency, morality, etc under Article 19 (2), which is comfortably overlooked by media people before publication of any such salacious content.

Sec.292 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has made a general provision in respect to obscenity and has not defined the word "obscenity" anywhere. Sub- sec. (1) of sec.292 generally speaks about sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or circulation of any book, pamphlet, paper, drawing, painting, etc having any lascivious content, effect of which it tends to deprave and corrupt people who read, see or hear the matter contained in it to be an offence. Further clause (a) of sub- sec. (2) of sec.292 brings under its purview even those who are under possession of such material. But the lacuna in this section or any other sections of IPC is that it has nowhere defined the term "obscenity", providing this to be the lope hole for such publications to escape in the name of changing modern lifestyle or elevation from conservative social thinking. The term "obscenity" for a layman means something which is indecent, lewd, and offensive in behavior, expression or appearance and which creates a situation of sudden shock for the recipient and having this in mind, the publications should be scaled to the majority of recipients' comprehension. Obscenity is a subjective term, which might differ from individual to individual for their personal feelings and opinions concerning indecency related to a particular thing. What might be indecent for one, might not be for the other but considering this fact, it is incumbent on the legislature to interpret the term "obscenity", to avoid further assassination of morality. There needs to be a yardstick indicating a line of demarcation adequate enough to distinguish between that which is obscene and that which is not.

In a case of Aveek Sarkar & another Versus State of West Bengal, Supreme Court recently passed a judgment stating, "Nude picture of women is not obscene if it carries social message", that is a picture of a nude/semi-nude women, as such, cannot per se be called obscene unless it has the tendency to arouse feeling or revealing an overt sexual desire. The judgment passed is indisputable but many advertisements published in newspapers, magazine related to contraceptives involve picture of semi-nude women models posing in seductive gestures, soliciting and luring people to try their products. The pictures depicted in such advertisements are undeniably vulgar and designed to excite sexual passion in persons who are likely to see it and the defense taken by the media for publishing such contents is that it's an effort to spread social awareness. Such advertisements are meant only for a particular group of audience and certainly not meant for children and adolescent and by publishing such content in newspapers or magazines it is bound to create a sudden shock or feeling of lustful thoughts in the audience's mind. Particularly for newspapers which are pursued by almost every age group, there has to be certain restrictions on publication of such content to maintain public decency.

In a case of 2004, a complaint was filed by a retired BSF officer against the editor of a leading newspaper publishing house in India before the Inquiry committee at New Delhi for publication of allegedly obscene material six times in one of its magazine supplement edition. The counsel for the respondent defended the respondent in the written statement filled by him stating, "That these articles/pictures are life stones of new styles of life challenging traditional social norms and values. What they have stated has to be tested by the current standards of ordinary decent people, the newspaper being in English and likely to be read only by well-educated persons". Neither of the publication houses asks for anyone's qualification nor tests their intellectual maturity before granting subscriptions for their editions or issues, rather they are in constant need to covet the audience preferring other publication house editions. If we consider the defense of the editor, then there arises a situation where there is a need of a statutory warning, to be printed on each of its edition demanding only for such audience which is well- qualified to perceive the printed content according to the editor's understanding.

In Ranjit D. Udeshi, 1965 case, the test of obscenity & community standards was considered and was stated that the concept of obscenity would change with passage of time but if we evaluate this fact then sooner we will be in such an age, where watching pornography or filthy images, videos, etc in public would not be considered a matter of concern as our righteousness would be buried deep. As of today, majorities forming our society have yet not progressed or are incapacitated to draw the exact interpretation of what they are presented with so a need for check over "obscenity" and laws attached to it needs a through scan.

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