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'Books Provide Help To People With Anxiety Amid Lockdown' : Bombay High Court Issues Notice In Plea To Declare Sale Of Books An Essential Service

Sharmeen Hakim
3 Sep 2021 1:18 PM GMT
Books Provide Help To People With Anxiety Amid Lockdown : Bombay High Court Issues Notice In Plea To Declare Sale Of Books An Essential Service
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The Bombay High Court on Friday issued notice on a book publisher association's plea to include the sale of books as an essential service under the Essential Service and Maintenance Act. A division bench of Justices KK Tated and PK Chavan issued notice to the Centre and State on Marathi Prakashak Parishad's plea. "….to be declared an integral part to exercise right to life with...

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The Bombay High Court on Friday issued notice on a book publisher association's plea to include the sale of books as an essential service under the Essential Service and Maintenance Act.

A division bench of Justices KK Tated and PK Chavan issued notice to the Centre and State on Marathi Prakashak Parishad's plea.

"….to be declared an integral part to exercise right to life with human dignity and freedom of expression," the plea states.

The plea states that during the Covid-19 pandemic, major businesses were shut down except essential services. The publishing industry suffered considerably as well, it adds.

"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 petition stated.

Filed through Advocates Ajinkya Udane and Asim Sarode, the petition highlights that although Articles 19 and 21 have never been interpreted collectively to consider books as an essential commodity, but several judgements have considered the facility of reading and writing as part of the right to life.

The plea contends that not everyone can afford laptops and smartphones, and hence books are the source of knowledge, information and education for many of them.

"Lockdown like situations increases mental health issues…In such times of crisis, people need something that will keep them going and positive to survive through it all. Books always provide great help to people living with anxiety. Considering both physical and mental health books are a great aide to the mind."

Even though the plea is filed in the backdrop of the Corona virus pandemic, the court may consider, "declaring selling of books as an essential service of all times because without books exercising Right to Life and freedom of expression which incudes quality of life, will be meaningless," the plea states.

Reference has also been made to an online campaign #BooksAreEssential by publishers in the USA that had gathered support from people across the world.

Citing the example of the Kerala Government, the publishers have urged the Maharashtra Government to consider books as an essential as well.

The petitioner argues that when it comes to Article 21 of the constitution, the judiciary has not only indulged in judicial activism but also in "judicial creativity" and thus invites 'Judicial creativity,' from the High Court in the form of constructive intervention.

The petition finally seeks directions to the Central Government to add sale of books as an essential service in section 2(1)(a)(ix) of the Essential Services and Maintenance Act.

Case Title: Marathi Prakashak Parishad v. Government of India & Ors

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