STANLEY V/S GEORGIA 394 U.S. 557(1969)

STANLEY V/S GEORGIA  394 U.S. 557(1969)

This is an important case in the history of the American judicature, dealing with obscenity which,historically, the American Court had not included within the First Amendment protection. In this case the question which was actually before the Court was, “ What is obscenity?” To answer this question the Court decided to formulate a reliable standard that would distinguish unprotected pornography from sexually explicit material not technically considered obscene.

In this case, an investigation of the appellant’s alleged bookmaking activities led to the issuance of a search warrant for appellant’s home. The federal and state agents secured the entrance into the house of the appellant under the authority of the warrant that they had procured. nHowever, on entering the premises they found very little evidence of bookmaking activity being conducted by the appellant which was his occupation, but during their search operation three reels of eight-millimeter film were found. Using a projector and screen, which were also available in the house, the officers viewed those films. After viewing those films, they concluded that the films were obscene and seized them. The appellant was, therefore, charged with the possession of obscene matter and arrested. He was later indicted of “knowingly having possession of obscene matter” in violation of Georgia law.

Before the Court the Appellant asserted the right to read or observe what he pleased; the right to satisfy his intellectual and emotional needs in the privacy of his own room. He also asserted the right to be free from state inquiry into the contents of his library. However, Georgia contended

that the appellant did not have all these rights in as much as there were certain types of materials that the individual may not read or even possess. In its justification, Georgia asserted that the films in the present case were obscene. However, the Court took the view that mere categorization of those films as “obscene” was insufficient justification for such a drastic invasion of personal liberties guaranteed by the First and the Fourteenth Amendments. The Court said that whatever may be the justification of the other statutes regulating “obscenity”, they can not reach into the privacy of one’s own home. Even going by the First Amendment, a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in the privacy of his own home, what books he may read or what films he may watch. The provisions of the Statute can not be expected to control men’s minds.

The Court further said that, according to what Georgia is asserting, it conveys that the State has the right to control the moral contents of a person’s thoughts, which is wholly inconsistent with the philosophy of the First Amendment and, therefore, a totally wrong proposition. Given the present state of knowledge, the Court asserted the State may not prohibit mere possession of obscene matter on the ground that it may lead to antisocial conduct. Hence, the appeal was decided in favour of the appellant. According to what Georgia is asserting, it conve that the State has the right to control the moralcontents of a person’s thoughts.

-LawZ Bureau

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