India’s top court asked the Indian government Tuesday to decide whether photographs and videos of scantily clad women and couples on packaging of and advertisements for condoms, contraceptives and other sexual wellness products breach the country’s strict obscenity laws. The government’s attorney must tell the Supreme Court in six weeks if the images comply with both the law and India’s advertising norms.
The report was sought by a bench headed by India’s Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, local newspaper the Indian Express reported.
“You tell us whether action can be taken on these ads or not … Take a look at the advertisements available on record and also others and then tell us what is your stand,” the court told the government lawyer, Maninder Singh.
The bench also asked Singh: “Do you have any plan to regulate such advertisements? Is there a way you can check what is going to be printed on these packets or can you take action only after these packets with pictures are available in the market? You also have to tell us if such advertisements may constitute a penal offense.”
Additional Solicitor General Singh, the government’s third-most senior lawyer, is likely to spend a lot of the next six weeks poring over case files that contain potentially objectionable photographs before he can answer the tough questions posed by the court.
The case goes back to 2008, when the Madras High Court in southern India had ruled, while hearing a public interest litigation, that condom manufacturers should keep their packaging and advertising free of “sexy” pictures. The court reasoned at the time that the pictures were obscene and offensive to Indian culture.
Condom manufacturers had approached the Supreme Court for relief, and the apex court had stayed the High Court order.