Decided on August 03,1971



Vaidya, J. - (1.) -The validity of the first proviso to section 13 (1) (b) of the Andhra Pradesh Public Libraries Act, 1960 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act") is questioned in this writ petition.
(2.) The first petitioner is an advocate and is the President of the Indian Rationalist Association, Hyderabad; and the second petitioner is the Secretary of the Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom Hyderabad and also Joint Editor of a Cultural Quarterly magazine called "Prasarita". The second petitioner is also a member of the State CentralLibrary. The petitioners aver that both of them are regular visitors to the City Central Library and other Public Libraries in the city for purposes of reading books and magazines and are keenly interested in acquisition and dissemination of knowledge for due, proper and effective exercise of their fundamental right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India They further aver that it is a part of their avocation and duty to circulate and distribute the literture published under the auspices of the Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom, the Indian Rationalist Association and other allied and associate organisations, and also to assure dissemination of knowledge through the supply of books for price to public libraries The City Central Library, Himayatnagar and State Central Library, Hyderabad are "public libraries" within the meaning of section 2 (9) of the Act and are open to public including the petitioners. The public have free right of access to enter the libraries, read books and acquire knowledge. The Public Libraries are bound by section 13 (i) (b) of the Act to stock books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts etc. The petitioners have found recently that the libraries were not purchasing any books for the last sixteen months or subscribing to any new magazines. On enquiry, the petitioners were told that it was not due to any administrative or financial exigencies, but because of the recent ban imposed on them by the proviso to section 13 (1) (b) of the Act which was introduced in the Act by section 11 (i) of the Andhra Pradesh Public Libraries (Amendment) Act, 1969. The second petitioner wrote a letter to the City Central Library, Himayatnagar Hyderabad, offering their publications with a request that the same may be purchased or subscribed by the Library for purposes of stocking them in its fifteen branches in the City and also another letter to the State Central Library with a similar offer. The Secretary of the City Central Library informed the second petitioner stating that he had no power to purchase any new books by virtue of the aforesaid ban. He also informed that the City Grandhalaya Samstha will have no objection to purchase the books mentioned in the tetter written by the second petitioner if those are included in the list to be supplied by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The validity of the first proviso to section 13 (1) (b) of the Act is questioned on the ground that it infringes the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression includes the fundamental right to freedom of dissemination and acquisition of knowledge. The impugned proviso by stating that the books can be stocked only from that list of books approved by the Government impinge upon the petitioners' freedom to acquire and disseminate knowledge. The impugned provision is not within one of the reasonable restrictions which can be imposed under Article 19 (2) as such a restriction is not in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State friendly relations with foreign Stales Public Order, decency or morality, or an relation to contempt of Court tion or incitement to an offence. It is also contended that the discretion vested in the Government to prepare a list of approved books is entirely arbitrary and without any guidelines either in the Act or in the Rules made thereunder. The Rules made under the Act do not make any provision for constitution of a Selection Committee for purposes of approving the books, nor does it lay down the criteria on which the books can be approved by the Government. The procedure for approval of books also has not been provided for in the Rules. Considering this aspect of the matter also, the impugned provision is void. It is also stated in the affidavit of the petitioners that they came to know that the Government has appointed a Selection Committee for purposes of approval of books and the list approved by the said committee is pending as there is some dispute in regard to the commission that has to be offered by the publishers.
(3.) The stand of the Government is that the impugned provision does not in any manner attract the fundamental right contained in Article 19 (i) fa) of the Constitution of India. The very fact that the books are to be stocked in a Library necessarily involves a process of selection of books. Ths selection can be undertaken after considering a number of criteria such as the literary value, intrinsic worth, price, the subject dealt with, the needs of the public for which a particular library has to cater and a number of other factors which it is very difficult to specify or lay down either by the Act or by the Rules made thereunder. Discretion, therefore, has necessarily to be Vested in an authority for selection of books and such a discretion has been Vested in a high authority like the Government which can always take the advice of the Library Committee constituted under section 3 of the Act. Therefore, the question of laying down any guidelines does not arise and the impugned provision cannot be considered to be void on that account. Further, the impugned provision does not lay down any restriction on the selection of particular book. It makes only a general provision that the library would also be stocked with books from the list of books approved by the Government. It is only after defamathe Government list approving the books is published, the parties aggrieved can challenge the said list if it is found that certain books have been excluded for a reason which would infringe Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. Before the publication of the approved list, it is too premature to argue that the petitioners' right guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution has been impinged.;

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