Written by: Riya Ganguly (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
To curb the alarming spread of the virus, various restrictions such as those on movement of goods and people and operation of businesses were imposed by the State machinery, one of which was the restriction on opening of book stores and their consequent sale. Consequently, a writ petition was filed by Marathi Prakashak Parishad, a Pune based organization involved in publishing of Marathi books, seeking to include the sale of books in the list of essential services notified under the Essential Services Maintenance Act.
Marathi Prakashak Parishad V. Government of India & Ors
The petitioner via its present petition has sought the Central government to include the sale of books in the list of essential services under section 2(1) (a) (ix) of the Essential Services and Maintenance Act as notified by the Centre. The petitioner has also called upon the Maharashtra government to take steps to facilitate and aid the sale of books, thereby citing the case of Kerala, which has allowed the sale of books even amidst the pandemic related restrictions.
The petitioner contented that the drastic restrictions imposed on sales of books had severely affected the production and sale of book publishing industry, resulting in their heavy losses and has also caused impediment in education of children which has already suffered due to closure of schools. Moreover, the act of keeping the sale of books outside the purview of essential services by the State, while on the other hand, allowing the unfettered sale of alcohol amidst the lockdown was grossly irrational and unjust.
Petitioner asserted that the books were an important instrument to exercise the right to life with human dignity and were a crucial component of freedom of speech and expression. The petitioner stated that even though Article 19 and 21 of the Indian constitution have never been interpreted collectively to characterize books as a commodity essential to life, yet the books were an essential commodity in the course of exercising right to life as reading and writing form a core component of right to life has been held in various judgments.
The petitioner asserted that the pandemic has also caused drain of financial resources of nearly all peoples of society especially the marginalized and the poor. It became severely difficult for the underprivileged ones, who found it difficult to arrange to square of meals a day, to afford phones and laptops in order to continue their education in these challenging times. Hence, books at subsidized cost were an only viable option for them to continue with their education. Hence, imposition of restrictions on the sale of books would severely affect their well being and education, thus, exposing them to vulnerabilities.
The petitioner asserted that books also help to reduce stress and aid in maintenance of mental balance. The petition stated that “the process of reading books reduces stress and takes our mind off from problems for at least a little while. Books provide food for thought. As we consider food an essential element, it is time to consider books which also provides food for thought as essential service.”
The petitioner has, hence, requested the judiciary to exercise judicial creativity through its constructive intervention and serve justice.
The division bench of the Bombay High Court presided by Justice K.K Tated and PK Chavan, on 3rd September 2021, has issued notices to Central and the Maharashtra government on the plea of Marathi Prakashak Parishad, asked them to file requisite response over the same within a specified time.