Instilling a Sense of Personal Morality Not a Duty of the Court: Madras High Court

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Excerpt

On 1.7.21, the Madras High Court decided on a petition filed under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution requesting a ban on all online and offline video games. The Court disposed of this petition as it believed that this issue required the attention of the policymakers and not the judiciary.

Brief Facts

The Petitioner E. Martin Jayakumar had filed a writ of Mandamus under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking the Court to ban all online and offline video games. Through this petition, he further submitted a request that the Court brings in an appropriate mechanism to keep a check on devices being used for online classes that were not used to play games. In the opinion of the Petitioner, the youth of the country was falling prey to online business enterprises trying to feed on the addictive nature of these online games.

Petitioner’s Submission

The Petitioner submitted before the Court that mobile phones had completely taken over our lives in the light of the pandemic situation. Electronic gadgets such as computers and mobile phones had become necessary with the advent of online classes and work from home. During the lockdown period, the closure of schools meant that the children spent a significant portion of their time idle. This had only increased the susceptibility of children getting addicted to online and offline video games. Ms Selvi George appearing for the Petitioner put forth a common observation before the Court, that of a family gathering where none was interested in anything but their phone. Too much addiction could be detrimental to the careers of these young adults, affect their relationships with their families, and negatively impact their health. 

Observation of the Court

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In cases where there was a severe threat to the public or any illegal action, Constitutional Courts could take cognizance of such matters. Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, after carefully considering the facts of this case, contended that the issue put forward in the present case was more a question of personal morality than a question of law.  The Court observed that in the present case though there might be a significant negative impact on the public, no scientific evidence supporting the Petitioner’s arguments were put before the Court.  The honourable judges opined that this case was more related to that of policy decisions to be taken by the elected Government than that of one requiring a Court’s mandate. Only if the Executive failed in the discharge of their duties, the Court could step up. At this stage, it fell upon the Court to direct the Petitioner in approaching the Executive to come up with a well-framed policy decision. And since there was an elected government in place, the Court refrained from overstepping its boundaries.

Court’s Decision

The Honorable Court disposed of this petition contending that the issues raised in this case were primarily based on moral and ethical grounds. However, the Court permitted the Petitioner to approach the Government through appropriate forums such as the Ministry of Women and Child Development or any other appropriate ministry as they may so deem fit. The Court also said that if even after approaching the Executive, no suitable action was taken, then for the welfare of the public the judiciary might step in.

Click here to view full judgment.


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