Expression of opinions is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution under Article 19(1) (a). Opinions are important as they move further to create discussion, debates, and ideologies. In a democratic country, speech is considered as a fundamental right with which a person is born and is guaranteed protection by law.
The discussions and debates give rise to various perspectives to the subject or matter in question. Every individual has his or her own thinking process, which will give rise to different opinion and question. The object of this Article is it inculcate the sense of questioning, reasoning and develop the skills of thinking in the citizens. Dissent of opinion and questions raised always act as a checkpoint to policies. Every policy or law introduced by the government is first put up in the House of Parliament for debate and approval. This is to set the example for the citizens and make the policy making a fair and just process.
But there are various restrictions to this Freedom as well. Article 19(2) describes the restrictive policies. It states that nothing stated in Article 19(1)(a) restricts the State from introducing any law that imposes reasonable restrictions this right. In case this right is used to disrupt friendly relations with other countries, pose a threat to the integrity and sovereignty of India, or to incite internal aggression, disrupt public order, violate decency and morality, or contempt of court, then the restrictions can be placed.
The restrictions mentioned are somewhere very well defined and has a broad perspective. Speech and expression mentioned in the above Article includes various means like gestures, symbols, print media etc. With the advent of technology everything under the umbrella of electronic media also comes under this article.
It is a well-known saying “Words are like arrows on a bow, once released cannot be taken back”. All citizens are therefore responsible for the statements they make with a conscious mind. A right given to them does not mean they can use it to promote anti national and disruptive agendas. There is a thin line of difference between criticizing something and cynicism. It is natural to dislike or disagree to subject but sometimes one needs to keep the State interests before the individual interests.
In recent times, the government has been using the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and National Security Act (NSA), to suppress opposition and rebellion. The government has been greatly criticized for this move. According to me, in dire consequences, these Acts should be used as these are grievous offences and once a case is registered under this Act, it can literally derail the future of many people. It should not be used to promote and propagate one’s ideologies and agendas under any consequences.
With the advent of electronic media, new challenges arose before the state. Fake news, spreading communal hatred, incising political opinion, sharing false information has been a major headache in recent time. Social media like WhatsApp, Instagram, twitter etc. just became a cheap and readily available medium for the same.
To keep a check on this, it is a noticeable attribute that WhatsApp forward and sharing features have been limited. Government had asked the various social media platforms to prove traceability of message originator and unlawful messages. WhatsApp contended that this is a breach of privacy and a threat to free speech. In response the government has questioned WhatsApp’s own policy to send the data to the parent company (Facebook) for various marketing reasons.
In Shreya Singhal vs Union of India, the Supreme Court struck down the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and amended Section 79 of the same Act. Those sections were deemed unconstitutional in nature by virtue of fact that earlier these Sections were being blatantly used for one’s own personal and political benefit. The court observed that the Section was very vague and arbitrary in nature. This became a boon for the online free speech.
Lastly, I would like to point out that everything in a limit is good. Anything that goes against the law of the land and brings instability in the State should be opposed and restricted. This applies not only to the citizen but to the government as well. The freedom of speech and expression should be considered as a gift to the citizens and not be misused. Speech and expression for the upliftment of the society should be appreciated and empowered but if unlawful and dark agendas lie beneath the veil, then they should be condemned and penalized accordingly.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge