The cover image of the now-defunct Sports World magazine, from the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group, which landed the Calcutta-based media house in a protracted 21-year legal case that ended this week.
The image of tennis star Boris Becker covering the breasts of his then fiancee Barbara Feltus with his hands, had been reproduced from the German magazine Stern along with an accompanying article on the racist abuse they were facing over their relationship.
The intro on the cover clearly said:
“Posing nude, dropping out of tournaments, battling racism in Germany, Boris Becker explains his recent approach to life”
But a Calcutta advocate filed a case of obscenity against Aveek Sarkar, chief editor of ABP, under section 292 of the Indian penal code and indecent representation of women (prohibition) act.
Sarkar moved the Supreme Court in 2004 after the Calcutta decline to interfere.
A two-judge bench ruled this week that a picture or article can be deemed obscene only if it lascivious, appeals to prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt those likely to read, see or hear it.
“A picture of a nude/semi-nude woman… cannot per se be called obscene….
“Only those sex-related materials which have a tendency of ‘exciting lustful thoughts’ can be held to be obscene, but the obscenity has to be judged from the point of view of an average person, by applying contemporary community standard(s).
“Applying the community tolerance test, we are not prepared to say such a photograph is suggestive of depraved minds and designed to excite sexual passion… which would depend upon the particular posture and background.
“Further, the photograph, in our view, has no tendency to deprave or corrupt the minds of people in whose hands the magazine… would fall.
““Boris Becker himself puts it, as quoted in the said article: ‘The nude photos were supposed to shock, no doubt about it…. What I am saying with these photos is that an inter-racial relationship is okay’.
“We should, therefore, appreciate the photograph and the article in the light of the message it wants to convey, that is to eradicate the evil of racism and apartheid… and to promote love and marriage between a white-skinned man and a black-skinned woman.”
Image: courtesy The Telegraph
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