The Rajasthan High Court has issued notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B) in a plea praying for quashing the advisory issued by the ministry for constraining the telecast of condom commercials between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.
The I & B Ministry had issued an advisory to all television channels on December 11 stating that advertisement for condoms will only be allowed between 10 pm and 6 am on the ground that,
“Some channels carry ads of condoms repeatedly which are alleged to be indecent especially for children”
The petition against the advisory has been filed by an NGO Global Alliance for Human Rights, which works for the welfare of patients with HIV and for increasing awareness about AIDS.
The petition filed through advocates Prateek Kasliwaland Divesh Sharma, states that apart from family planning, condoms can prevent the spread of a host of diseases like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes, syphilis and chancroid. Using a condom can also reduce the risk of cancer from HPV (genital warts) and protects from contracting STDs.
“Indian society is already not accepting a rubber between its ego and the freedom to procreate and have sex. Family planning is still considered a female’s responsibility. That efforts are made to popularize usage of condoms as the best means of dual protection. Optimum utilization of condoms limits a nuclear family and remains STI/HIV-free.”
It has also been contended that conservative social norms lead to many people being embarrassed to shop for condoms. The usage of condoms remains low in rural areas of the country as well. In such circumstances, the impugned notification is a draconian action by the ministry.
On the issue of decency, the petitioner has referred to Rule 7 (7) of The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 which stipulates that,
“No advertisement which endangers the safety of children or creates in them any interest in unhealthy practices or shows them begging or in an undignified or indecent manner shall not be carried in the cable service.”
It has been argued that if the advertisements of condoms are violative of the said rules, then they cannot be allowed to be aired even between 10 pm to 6 am. It is the petitioner’s case that the advisory is absurd and has been issued without the application of mind.
“There is no prudent reasoning for restraining the advertisement from 6am to 10pm.”
Contending that the action is against the public interest and highlights the hypocritical approach of the Government, which on one hand, promotes family planning and AIDS awareness and on the other, obstructs such dissemination of crucial information, the petitioner has prayed for quashing the impugned Advisory (Advisory No. 4001 1/01/2014-bc- l).
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajogand DC Somani issued notice to the Ministry of I&B.