“One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric,” says Kerala High Court on breastfeeding magazine cover

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The Kerala High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea seeking action against a Malayalam fortnightly magazine for featuring a model breastfeeding a baby on its cover page.

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A division bench comprising Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu said, “What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.”

It went on to add, “We do not see, despite our best efforts, obscenity in the picture, nor do we find anything objectionable in the caption, for men. We looked at the picture with the same eyes we look at the paintings of artists like Raja Ravi Varma. As the beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, so does obscenity, perhaps.”

Though the order was passed in March, it came in the public domain only now, reported PTI. Justice Dominic has since retired.

The plea was filed by one Felix M A, who contended that the cover page of the magazine was in violation of Section 3(c) and 5(j), III of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Rules, as well as Section 45 of the Juvenile Justice Act. Citing sections 3 and 4 of Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, and Article 39 (e) and (f) of the Constitution of India, the petitioner also sought action against the magazine.

But, while dismissing the case, the court said, “‘Shocking one’s morals’ is an elusive concept, amorphous and protean. What may be obscene to some may be artistic to other; one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric, so to say. Therefore, we can only be subjective about magazine cover depiction>”

It said that even the sections relied on by the petitioner failed to convince it that the respondent publishers had committed any offence, much less a cardinal one, affecting the society’s moral fabric, and offending its sensibilities, added PTI report.

Meanwhile, the model in the picture, Gilu Joseph, said that she had no regrets adding that even the incessant slut-shaming online was not capable of making her feel ashamed.

“I was slut shamed, was termed a blue-film actor. My mother was called names. But I knew I would have to hear all this. I took it in my stride. This issue is about breastfeeding and it’s an important cause. There is no question of regretting anything. This is my work. I have cared in films as a mother, what’s so different about this,” Joseph, a Dubai-based model told NDTV.

The bench also recalled that in Bobby Art International v. Om Pal (Bandit Queen movie), the Supreme had observed that nudity did not not always arouse the baser instinct. It said, “May we observe, Indian psyche has been so mature for ages that it could see the sensuous even in the sacred. The paintings in Ajanta and the temple architecture are cases in point.”

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