The Big Picture – SC Upholds Criminal Defamation – Effect on Free Speech
The SC passed its judgement on a series of petition on Criminal defamation filed by famous politicians like A Kejriwal, Subramanian Swamy, and Rahul Gandhi. In its judgement supreme court upheld the Sec 499 and 500 of IPC which amounts to criminal defamation and ruled that right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. This judgement is viewed by some with positivity while others view this as an effective tool to silence dissent and free speech. This article deals with the issues associated with the supreme court ruling and its impact on free speech
The Supreme Court has categorically mentioned through its judgement that the right to freedom of expression cannot be used to malign the reputation of the person. This being the crux of the judgement has to be viewed with more prudence as it tries to strike a balance between Freedom of speech & expression and individual reputation.
Through this judgement SC has given a right message to all the people who use defamation as per their whims and fancies. The motive to defame a person may be to gain undue advantage however there are instances where people have used this draconian section of 499 & 500 to malign the reputation of a person which is accumulated over years with much hard work and perseverance. This judgement is a stern message to all those who consider freedom of speech as absolute and to think twice before defaming a person.
However on the other side of the discourse they are sections arguing that it curtails any form of criticism. Media which expresses the above concern has a view that people with deep pockets can go on and on by dragging the person to court considering all forms of criticism as defaming.
Finally with this judgement the court has cautioned indirectly to not to take judiciary for granted in solving issues like defamation which are of not that important. This judgement has come at a time when the judiciary is overburdened with crores of pending cases.
Politics in a democracy should be fought by having constructive criticism of each other and not by maligning a person in a public domain. Politicians need to play politics in a more sensible and mature way to develop the country and not to set personal scores or with power motive. India is a country with still millions of people deeply engrained in poverty; our entire discourse should focus on how to get these people out of poverty than settling insults in courts. With the new judgement media needs to be more diligent and prudent while reporting issues that have serious implications. The Supreme Court in its wisdom has given its judgement in true sense at a time when we need to focus on development and not on defamation.