Regulation of freedom of speech in India dilutes the democracy

In a democratic country, freedom should be absolute. The moment a restriction is placed on its head, the meaning of democracy vanishes.

In February 2016, police in Delhi arrested Kanhaiya Kumar, a student union leader at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, after members of the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused him of making anti-national speeches during a meeting organized on campus. This unjustified act of filing sedition cases over him dilutes the form of democracy. The sedition law, section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was introduced by the British in 1870. The British used the law as a tool of repression to maintain colonial control, including against Indian freedom fighters. The regulation of free speech provokes dictatorship.

Another example is the frequent use of criminal defamation charges by the Tamil Nadu state government, led by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, against journalists, media outlets, and rival politicians is illustrative of how the law can be used to criminalize critics of the government. “The Tamil Nadu government reportedly filed nearly 200 cases of criminal defamation between 2011 and 2016. The Tamil-language magazines Ananda Vikatan and Junior Vikatan, both published by the Vikatan group, face charges in 34 criminal defamation cases, including for a series of articles assessing the performance of each cabinet minister” reported Human rights watch in one of their articles. The Supreme Court judges replied that “These criticisms are with reference to the conceptual governance of the state and not individualistic. Why should the state file a case for individuals? Defamation case is not meant for this.”Any stringent guideline on free speech is outrageous and is disgraceful to the democracy.

The extent of free speech and expression in itself is limited in India. In 2012, two girls in Mumbai were arrested for their facebook (Social Media) post questioning the shutdown in the city for Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray’s funeral. In 2015, the Tamil Nadu state police arrested a folk singer Kovan for composing songs that criticized the government for allegedly profiting from state-run liquor shops at the expense of the poor. He was released on bail after a year.

The sudden demonetisation move by the prime minister remains unquestionable till today.The democratic nation created by the people will be in jeopardy with regulations imposed on the free speech.

 

Source: Human Rights watch, scroll.in

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