The Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to issue any direction on a petition seeking to ban jokes on Sikhs, saying it will be impossible to implement its order or guidelines.
The apex court said it can’t lay moral guidelines for the citizens over the issue. "We cannot issue guidelines to regulate individuals," the court said.
"Even if we issue guidelines who will control it,” the court said.
A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi said courts cannot pass any regulations asking people to behave in a "particular manner in public" and even if they do, "who will enforce them on the streets?"
"Sikhs are a highly respected community but you’re bringing it down by fighting litigation to ban these jokes,” said the court while hearing a petition filed by lawyer Harvinder Choudhary.
The bench, which indicated its opinion on the issue, said it would pass a formal order on a batch of petitions alleging commercial dissemination of "insulting" jokes about Sikhs through public modes of communication, like internet and SMS, on March 27.
It did not agree with the submission that like the Vishakha judgement, in which the apex court had given a slew of directions on women safety at work places, directions can be passed in the instant matter also till the government comes out with a legislation.
"In the Vishakha and the eve teasing judgements, the state was the party. Here, how can the court issue the writ of mandamus (directions) against individuals," it said.
The bench said, "Certain things are collective and certain things are individual...Some people laugh when they hear jokes, some are reserved. How can we issue guidelines as to how people should conduct themselves?"
Chowdhary pointed out that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have a "vigorous law" to protect them from any insult but the Sikh community doesn’t have one.
"Yes, that is a law. Parliament made it. It is in the domain of the legislature. We cannot issue guidelines. And to whom do we issue guidelines to?" Justice Misra responded.
The bench, earlier headed by the then CJI T S Thakur, had said it was willing to issue directions to curb dissemination of "insulting" jokes about Sikhs.
It had said that the key concern was the enforcement of such directives.
The bench had sought suggestions on enforceability of possible directions on the issue from lawyers concerned and Sikh bodies like Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Amritsar, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC), Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, Haryana, and Gurudwara Management Committee, Patna Sahib.
"The comments or jokes may be humiliating and denigrating to the community, the issue is how to enforce any such direction," it had said.
It said an order can be passed to stop commercial exploitation of such jokes and materials, but it would be difficult to curb such things in private arena.
Advocate Harvinder Choudhary had filed a plea seeking ban on such jokes as they portray the Sikh community in negative light and wanted such websites, which disseminate such 'insensitive' jokes, to be prosecuted under laws that carry a prison term of six months to five years.