Says, “No criminality involved in the cartoon drawn by G. Bala”
In the petition of “Balamurugan v. State”, Justice G Llangovan of the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court quashed the criminal proceedings against the cartoonist G.Bala that was instituted in 2017.
The cartoonist had been booked on charges of obscenity, insult, and defamation. Based on the same a case was registered for offenses punishable under Section 501 of the IPC [Indian Penal Code] “Criminal Defamation” and Section 67 of Information Technology Act, 2000 i.e. “Publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form”
Mr. G. Balamurigan had published a cartoon on his Facebook Page regarding a self-immolation incident that took place outside the District Collector’s Office in Tirunelveli in 2017. In which he portrayed the burning body of a baby with three nude figures watching it burn. Those were the District Collector, the Superintendent of Police, and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, and with their private parts covered with currency notes.
The complaint against the Cartoonist was done by the District Collector on the basis that the cartoon was obscene, insulting, and defamatory. To which the accused preferred a petition before the High Court to quash the FIR [First Information Report]
Justice G Llangollen observed that the question for consideration is that “fro where the fundament rights of freedom of thought and expression must begin and where it must end”.
The court observed that, in a democratic country, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and expression are the foundation upon which the democracy lives/survives, without which there can be no democracy and therefore, no evolution of the human society.”
“But the court cannot teach ethicality to the people and it is for the Society to evolve and follow the ethical standards” The court observed.
It was noted that in the instant case the petitioner wanted to express his grief, anger, and criticism regarding the inability of the administration, for both the executive and police, for containing the collection of exorbitant interest by money lenders.
The court said that, while some may feel that the cartoon was an over-exaggeration or obscene, others may feel that it conveyed the indifference of the authority in protecting the life of the citizens. There was no intention on the part of the petitioner to defame the Collector, the Court Concluded.