A division Bench of Rajasthan High Court comprising Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Dinesh Chandra Somani, has issued notice to Centre on a petition challenging the advisory issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting banning television ads for condoms during prime time hours.
The Petition has been filed by an NGO, Global Alliance for Human Rights, which has been working for the welfare of HIV +ve patients since 2012.
It contends that the advisory, which asserts such ads to be "indecent, especially for children", is violative of Articles 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. It submits that the time for broadcasting the advertisement between 10pm to 6 am has been specified "without any reasonable explanation", asserting that the same has neglected the present circumstances where usage of condoms still remains low in rural areas of the country.
The PIL filed through Advocate Divesh Sharma highlights the fact that Rule 7 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 prohibits an 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". It then submits that an advertisement broadcasted between the stipulated time can also be violative of this Rule, thereby rendering the entire exercise futile.
It further asserts that dissemination of information on condoms is "not at all unhealthy or indecent", and that banning such advertisements "will cause hindrance to the awareness programmes launched by various NGOs and governmental organizations for having safe sex amongst HIV infected people".
The PIL avers that such information is, in fact, necessary, relying on the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 to submit that there still exists a lack of awareness on the use of condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies and HIV-AIDS.
It then submits, "...when a young boy or girl enters in teens, needs to learn all aspects about physiological and emotional changes that he or she will be going through while growing up. This information and awareness is absolutely essential for that young individual, in order to ensure that they can make informed choices as one goes through the teen years. It is due to this woeful lack of information and awareness that children go through traumatic experiences that range from sexual abuse to emotional and physical abuse, without knowing the implications of these or what recourse to take and this leads to the victim being emotionally and sometimes, physically, scarred for life.
Therefore, it’s the responsibility of society and the government to ensure that every boy and girl is provided with the necessary information and is taught all the preventive and corrective measures to be taken in case of any eventuality. In such circumstances when the action of the respondent is arbitrary and meaningless."
The PIL, therefore, pleads for quashing of the advisory and also seeks directions for preparing suitable guidelines for advertising condoms.