Supreme Court Judgments

Amitabh Bachchan Corpn. Ltd. vs Mahila Jagran Manch And Ors-20/01/1997

Unless any law is violated, the Court ought not to interfere in such matters. These are not matters which can be judicially assessed and the pressure which the agitators bring to bear ought motto sway the Court into exercising jurisdiction.


Amitabh Bachchan Corpn. Ltd. vs Mahila Jagran Manch And Ors.

CORUM: A Ahmadi, S V Manohar, G Pattanaik


A.M Ahmadi, C.J.I.

1- Special leave granted.

2. We have heard learned Counsel for the appellant as well as the State of Karnataka, none appearing on behalf of Respondent 1, the original petitioner. A letter petition was filed by Respondent 1-Society, purporting to be in public interest seeking certain directions in relation to the “Miss World-1996” contest arranged at Bangalore. The directions were to restrain the appellant herein from holding the contest anywhere in India including Bangalore, to restrain the Ministry of External Affairs from issuing visas to the contestants, etc., to restrain the State of Karnataka and its Departments from extending any facility or cooperation for holding the Beauty Pageant, recover charges for the use of the Press Conference Hall at Vidhan Sabha from the appellant and the State be ordered to tender an apology for announcing the event from Vidhan Sabha, etc., etc. The petition came up for hearing before a learned Single Judge of the High Court. The learned Single Judge by a detailed and well-reasoned judgment dated 13-9-1996 came to the conclusion that the petition was misconceived and the allegations on the basis of which it was founded were preposterous and that the Beauty Pageant to be held at Bangalore would not be offensive to our sense of morality and decency; nor could it be deemed as obscene in the eye of law. The learned Single Judge also held that no group of individuals can, while fighting for their so-called rights and freedoms, howsoever noble or just their cause may be, trample the rights and freedom of others. In his view while it may be perfectly legal for a group of activists to agitate for the rights and freedom of any section of the citizenry, such agitation cannot be extended to prevent other sections of citizenry or group of individuals from exercising their rights and freedoms. Briefly put, the learned Judge was of the opinion that the appellants were entitled to hold the Beauty Pageant in the form of “Miss World-1996” contest and it would not be proper for the Court to interfere at the behest of one group to deny the right to hold such a Pageant to the other group. The learned Judge also criticised the activists for indulging in violence and threatening self-immolation, etc.

3. After the petition was dismissed, the matter was carried by way of an appeal to the Division Bench of the High Court. The Division Bench of the High Court while issuing notice observed that from the facts stated and the averments made, it transpired that the holding of the Pageant had created serious problems regarding maintenance of law and order requiring minimum remedial measures. The organisers, protagonists and the opponents of the Pageant, said the Division Bench, had created circumstances which required issuance of interim directions. It also took note of the notice of the submission by the appellants before it that the State was interested in the organisers of the Pageant. The Division Bench then proceeded to direct that the State Government and its functionaries shall refrain from taking any steps to assist the organisers of the Pageant, except to secure law and order and to provide such maintenance as is legally permissible on payment of the requisite amount. The police security shall be provided only from the State Police Force and the Government shall not requisition for deployment any other force except with the permission of the Court. No amount shall be spent by the State Government in connection with the holding of the Pageant. The appellant before us, Respondent 2 before the Division Bench, was granted liberty to organise the show as a commercial activity at his own costs, risk and responsibility, subject to the result of the appeal or such orders as it may from time to time pass and direct the appellant herein to deposit Rs.5 lakhs as security of costs.

4. The matter was finally heard by the Division Bench which modified the order of the learned Single Judge to the extent indicated in para 41 of the judgment. The Division Bench directed that the holding of the “Miss World-1996” could not be stopped by the issuance of any direction by the Court, but the same shall be subject to observance of laws of the land and there would not be any indecent exposures of the body of the participants amounting to obscenity and nudity. If they indulge in any such activity, the police shall register a case against them. During the holding of the event, no liquor in any form shall be served in public to the participants or to any section of the audience. The respondent-State was directed to maintain law and order by deployment preferably of the State Police Force and in emergency situations the other security force already requisitioned, but in no case the army or the BSF.

5. The deployment of the security force was ordered to be subject to the payment of the expenses by the appellant herein in accordance with rules and orders in existence. The Court also expressed the view that the Ministers of the State should see the desirability of not participating in the function as guests of the appellant without payment of any requisite entry fee so that people may not carry the impression that they are active participants in the event. It was further directed that no Department of the State shall assist or cooperate in the holding of the event except to the extent and upon conditions already indicated in the interim order of 7-11-1996. It would thus be seen that severe restrictions were placed on the organisers, the State machinery as well as the security forces by the impugned order of the Court.

6. Against this order the appellant preferred this appeal. By our interim order dated 22-11-1996 we recorded the statement made by the appellant in regard to the service of liquor as a welcome toast at the beginning and at the end of the contest in selected enclosures to invitees, organisers and dignitaries seated in those enclosures. No liquor would be served to the audience generally or to the participants. The appellants also undertook to pay the requisite charges to the State for providing security for the Pageant in accordance with the applicable rules. The rest of the directions, we prima facie felt, were not sustainable. We, therefore, granted an ad interim stay of the directions issued by the Division Bench of the High Court. Every action taken in pursuance of those directives was also ordered to be stayed. Notice was directed to be issued to the respondents and as stated earlier Respondent 1 has failed to enter an appearance, though served.

7. We have thought it proper to make this order as we are distressed that the Division Bench of the High Court should have entertained the petition. It was necessary to realise that merely because a section of the people were agitating against the holding of the Pageant, a world event, and had resorted to violence, demonstration, etc., an international event could not be grounded or put under severe restrictions. The High Court should have realised that the rights of the organisers and other members of the society had to be protected if a law and order situation was created on account of such agitation, demonstration, etc. If for dealing with the threat to law and order, the State Government was required to use its Police force or Security forces, it was not proper on the part of the High Court to interfere and give directions in regard to the type of force to be used because it is very difficult in such situations to visualize what shape the demonstration and agitation may take and the type of law and order situation which may have to be dealt with. To restrain the State from using the BSF or the Armed Forces, if necessary, would in certain situation create very serious problem as the State would not be able to deal with it in case it turns ugly. This is not an area where the Court should exercise its jurisdiction and issue directions because it is difficult to anticipate how the situation will develop in course of time. This is a function which must be left to the executive as the judiciary is not equipped to deal with it.

8. There can be two views on the question whether such a show is desirable or not. Some may consider it to be indecent, others may not. Unless any law is violated, the Court ought not to interfere in such matters. These are not matters which can be judicially assessed and the pressure which the agitators bring to bear ought motto sway the Court into exercising jurisdiction. In the facts and circumstances of this case, we are of the opinion that the Court would have well advised not to interfere in the matter and leave it to the authorities to sort it out.

9. Although now the matter has become academic in the sense that the event is over, we have thought it necessary to say these few words so that in future the Court may not be swayed into exercising jurisdiction in such cases. The appeal will stand disposed of accordingly. Rupees five lakhs ordered to be deposited by the interim order of the Division Bench shall be refunded to the appellants.

10. Ordinarily in a case like this where the agitation has cost a lotto the appellant, we would have been inclined to direct heavy costs to be paid. But we do not do so in the present case, this being the first of its kind, but direct that the cost in the cause will be paid. But this should serve as a warning that in future such abuse of the judicial process may visit the petitioners with an order for payment of exemplary costs. Mr. Salve, learned Counsel for the appellant, states that the amount of cost will be recovered and paid to the Legal Aid Committee of the Supreme Court.

Equivalent citations: JT 1997 (10) SC 686, RLW 1998 (1) SC 141, (1997) 7 SCC 91

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