- Apprentice Lawyer
The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday held that sale by advertisement of any article by representing it as miraculous and supernatural is illegal [Rajendra Ambhore v. Union of India].
The Court also held that television channels which telecast such advertisements will be liable under the Black Magic Act.
It, therefore, issued directions to the State and Central government to ensure that such advertisements are penalised.
The Bench of Justices TV Nalawade and MG Sewlikar passed the order in a plea filed by one Rajendra Ambhore seeking reliefs to prevent advertisements on TV channels from promoting sale of articles like the Hanuman Chalisa Yantra.
The Court declared in its order,
"The propagation for sale by advertisement of any article by giving it name as Yantra or otherwise, by attaching the name of any God to such article including the name of Lord Hanuman or any Baba with representation that these articles have special, miraculous and supernatural properties/qualities and making representation that these articles will help human being to become happy, to make progress in business, to make progress in profession, to make advancement in career, to make improvement in performance in education, to get recovery from any disease etc., is illegal."
It added that even “telecast of advertisement, which propagates such articles is also illegal.”
The Court examined the case through the lens of provisions of the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifices and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.
On perusal of the Black Magic Act, the Court held,
"The definition of propagation, quoted already, shows that advertisement of present nature is covered by the definition. Section 3 of the Black Magic Act prohibits not only commission of act of black magic, evil practices etc., but also propagation, promotion of such practices and magic. Section 3(2) of this Act shows that abetment of such propaganda is also an offence. Thus, TV channels, which telecast such advertisement also become liable under Section 3 of the Black Magic Act."
The Bench foresaw that companies like the respondent - Telemart Shopping Network Pvt. Ltd - may change the names of the company/name of God/name of Baba to continue their business if they are only prevented from selling such articles under one particular name.
Hence, the Court deemed it necessary to cover the activities of all such persons, including propaganda and sale of such articles through this judgment.
In order to ensure that the prevention of the prohibited act becomes effective, the Court issued the following guidelines:
State government and Vigilance officers under the Act of 2013 should register crimes by giving reports against the persons making such advertisements.
State and Central government should have cells to ensure no such advertisements are telecast under different names, and if so, to stop them immediately by invoking the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
If such authority is not in place, then they were given a month to appoint such authority by invoking the provision of the 2013 Act.
The Court also brought the TV channels under the radar by holding them liable for telecasting such advertisements.
The plea came to be filed in 2015 when Ambhore came across the advertisement of Hanuman Chalisa Yantra on TV channels.
It was his contention that the same amounted to false propaganda and was made to exploit the persons who are superstitious in nature.
Ambhore addressed representations to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and Central government authorities that oversee such advertisements. He even approached the police.
But since no steps were taken to prevent such advertisement, he was constrained to file the present proceeding.
The plea was sought to be withdrawn in 2018 by Ambhore, but since the subject matter of the plea involved public interest at large, withdrawal was not allowed.
The Court went a step ahead to appoint Senior Advocate VD Sapkal as Amicus Curiae in the matter, who prosecuted the matter and even waived his fees.
The Court observed that despite having reformists like Mahatma Phule and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who worked to remove evil practices and spread awareness against superstition, a progressive and reformist state like Maharashtra was required to enact the 2013 Act.
It came to the conclusion that the advertisement of the Yantra was aimed to exploit persons who feel that "they are in trouble and they need some kind of help which may be of supernatural nature". The advertisement also employed several celebrities to display the “miracles.”
The Court has now directed the State and Central government to inform it within 30 days of the steps taken to implement the directions issued to them.