(The Hindu, February 24, 2010)
Montblanc International GmbH, Germany, gave an undertaking before a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday that its “Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 241” and “Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 3000” luxury pens would not be sold in the country until further orders from the court.
The Bench of Acting Chief Justice P.R. Raman and Justice CN Ramachandran Nair asked counsel for the company and its Rajkot-based distributor to give the undertaking in an affidavit within three days.
Counsel for the company gave the undertaking when a petition seeking a ban on the marketing and sale of the pens in the country came up for hearing. The petition was filed by Dijo Kappen, managing trustee, Centre for Consumer Education, Kottayam. In an affidavit, the pen company and the distributor said they tendered an unconditional apology if the sentiments of any of the citizens were hurt. It said that they had no intention to exploit the name of Mahatma Gandhi or to bring any disrepute to the Father of the Nation. They “never believed for a moment that they would hurt the susceptibilities of certain segments of the public and regret the present controversy.” The affidavit said the company had great regard for Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of the Nation and the writing instruments were “intended to pay homage to Gandhi and to his vision and legacy.” Montblanc International launched a set of high-end pens priced at Rs.14 lakh each on September 29 last under the series “Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition-241.” The 241 pens in the series were made to signify the “241 miles” travelled by Gandhiji during his famous Dandi March. The nibs had an image of Mahatma Gandhi walking with a stick.
The petitioner said the Father of the Nation was considered the epitome of simplicity and making him the symbol of a pen that cost Rs.14 lakh was nothing but an attempt to degrade everything he stood for, and to mock the nation. The affidavit said that through the limited edition series, the company, either directly or through its distributor in India, would be donating about $9,00,000 to charitable institutions in the country, especially those recommended by Gandhiji’s grandson and legal heir, Tushar Gandhi.
The company said the Union government had rejected its request for permission to use the name and image of Mahatma Gandhi on the ground that it would attract the provisions of the Emblem and Names (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1950. The company sought to review the decision by filing an application on January 13, 2010.