“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”
-Kevin Alfred strom.
To check whether we are free citizens or not we can apply a simple test , that is to try to use our right to speak and express. The right which is guaranteed all over the world under A19 of Universal Declaration Of Human rights, under International Human Rights law by UN , A19 of International Covenant On Civil & Political Rights, A10 of European convention On Human Rights, A13 of American Convention On Human Rights ,A9 of African Charter on Human & Political Rights .
In India we have one more additional ground: it is guaranteed to all citizens of the country as a fundamental right under article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution. Even after such legal assurance still every now and then people claim that they are not given enough freedom of speech.
Let’s study how free is our speech:
Article 19(2) of indian constitution exercised reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech in the name of :
1.Sovereignty and integrity of india
2. Security of state.
3.Friendly relations with the foreign states.
4. Decency or morality.
5.contempt of court.
7. Incitement of offense.
Apart from these there are certain laws the came as iron fist on the free speech these are:
a)IPC 1860 :- sec 124A sedition.
b) sec 153Apromoting enmity between diff groups on ground of religion , race, place of birth , residence, language etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
c)sec 294 obscene acts and songs .
d)sec 295A deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
e)sec 298 uttering words etc with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.
g)sec 505 statement conducting to public mischief, creating enmity, hatred or ill will between classes.
Besides that there is sec 67 of Information technology Act 2000 and other laws like UAPA 1967 and NSA 1980 .
At most of the instances these seem reasonable as your right to freedom doesn’t mean you can insult someone or their religious beliefs.
To know the answer to the question that freedom of speech is denied we must understand that the term means freedom of speech, information, press, broadcast, to fly the national flag and even right of silence as held in Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala as well as right to dissent.
S. Rangarajan v. P Jagjivan Ram
The Honourable court held that open criticism of govt policies and operations is not a ground for restricting expression. In democracy it is not necessary that everyone should sing the same song.
So when it comes to the right of dissent these laws aim to silence the voices of citizens. To quote a few instances in the recent past that we have witnessed such as the CAA protest, Farm law protest, JNU matter, Umar khalid’s speech , Disha rathi’s arrest and so on. The repeal of farm bills certified that reasonable dissent is much needed, but the outcome of protest is the result of 13 months of sufferings of millions of old, young and children on roads, in jails as well as filing of criminal charges, brutal beating in the hands of police, utter humiliation by the use of derogatory phrases. But for rest of matters where there was not enough support the matters are still pending for decision.
But on the other hand the instances of hate speeches are on a rise.On a bird’s eye view we see them targeting certain religious, linguistic minorities or women. But there is only one minority in world that is the poor people of society, who are in majority to form a govt. But will always remain in the minority when they become the easy prey of hailstorm in society by stirring the emotions of people by such hate speeches. No strong actions have been taken against them as done in case of exercising your right to dissent. Even on filing of charges against some of them they are out on bail , making a mockery of our laws . This situation affirms the phrase by George Orwell,” Truth is the new hate speech now.”
Our respected judiciary is working to protect our human, legal and fundamental rights as it is witnessed from the fact that the arrest rate under sedition increased to 160% while conviction rate is only 3.3%. Such sheer misuse of law. No matter which ruling government is in the country , their love for these draconian laws is mesmerizing. A colonial law made to suppress indian in 1898 is still working in this country irrespective of the fact that England has long abolished it calling it violative of human and fundamental right of freedom.
There is also absolute freedom of speech under A194 and 105 of the constitution given to MP and MLAs . they can be subjected to privilege motion but for them warnings are enough which certainly won’t work in case of common citizens of this country. In recent instances we witnessed the representatives of our society use terms such as ‘letter boxes’, ‘rapist’, ‘separatists’ and will not be made accountable , yet for the individuals such privilege is not available.On their own they created a reasonable differentia under A14. The message imparted to society here is “might is right ”, will create disastrous effects in the future.
Reasonable dissent is the backbone of a strong and successful democratic regime. Silencing these voices is a mockery of the great sacrifices made by our freedom fighters for the people of this country. They met death with a smile believing that their heads would create the doors of freedom for the country.
Let’s ponder over this matter for a moment and hope that such a day will never arise when we actually feel the need of having ‘truth funds’ in this country, just because we wish to speak what we believe in.
As quoted by Georde orwell—
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
“This article is written by Daman preet kaur , pursuing law from Punjabi university, Patiala.
Universal’s Bare Act on the constitution of india.
Universal’s bare Act on IPC 1860.
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