Indian Constitution, significant provisions and basic structure – Fundamental Rights (Freedom of Speech) Issues
Separation of powers between various organs , dispute redressal mechanisms and institution
Structure, organization and functioning of Executive and Judiciary
Who decides the fault in our speech?
Perumal Murugan, award-winning Tamil writer, had become a household name last year when he publicly announced that he was giving up writing after coming under sustained attack from certain local, caste-based groups, who had protested against his novel Mathorubhagan(translated into English as One Part Woman).
After widespread protests by local caste-based groups, the police got involved, and “summoned” the parties for a “peace talk”.
He was forced to agree to a written “unconditional apology” at a ‘peace committee’ meeting organized by local officials and they orchestrated protests to demand a ban on his novel and his prosecution, as they deemed his writings were prurient and defamatory (i.e. police-mediated settlement had been coercively imposed upon Mr. Murugan)
High Court Verdict
However, the Madras High Court has now rejected the demand for banning the book or prosecuting him, and declared that it will not allow self-appointed super-censors in society to decide what people read or see.
It has upheld the freedom of writers to write and advised those professing to be hurt by a book to just avoid reading it.
The Bench also reminded the authorities (police and the local officials) of their duty to secure freedom of expression and not give in to mob demands in the name of preserving law and order thus, handing Mr. Murugan a complete victory.
The concept called: “heckler’s veto”
As mentioned above, local police and officials imposed an unequal settlement upon Mr. Murugan.
The local police cited its duty to maintain “law and order”, and had told him that this was the only way in which the protesters could be appeased.
In the language of free speech, this is known as the “heckler’s veto”: by threatening public disorder or disturbance, socially powerful groups can shut down critical or inconvenient speech by simply cowing the writer as well as the police into submission. India has a long and shameful history of caving in to the heckler’s veto.
However, the recent verdict is a welcome one as the Court placed itself firmly on the side of the more liberal and progressive Indian free speech tradition, and against a series of regressive judgments that have upheld book bans and censorship on the specious grounds of ‘hurt sentiments’ or ‘offended religious beliefs’ (on the basis of heckler’s veto).
Judicial censorship (Very important)
Under the Constitution, the judiciary is not granted the power to censor speech.
Article 19(2) stipulates that the freedom of speech can be restricted only by a valid “law” — that is (subject to certain exceptions contained in Article 13 of the Constitution), a law enacted by Parliament.
Once Parliament passes a law restricting speech, the judiciary may review it to check whether it passes constitutional scrutiny.
In the case of banning books, this procedure is contained in Sections 95 and 96 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Section 95 authorizes the government to ban a book if it appears to have violated certain laws.
If the government chooses to ban a book, the writer or publisher may then approach the High Court, arguing that the ban is an unconstitutional invasion of their right to free speech. Then the High Courts can — and often have — struck down bans on this basis.
This two-step procedure is vitally important in protecting the right to free speech, since it first requires the government to apply its mind to the question of whether a book may legitimately be banned, and then authorizes the court to determine whether the government correctly applied its mind.
Troubling straight jacket move
Straightaway approaching the court for a ban short-circuits an essential safeguard, and also invites the court to step outside its jurisdiction by passing banning orders not contemplated by the Constitution.
Unfortunately, this has become an increasingly common tactic in recent years (i.e. no courts are following the above two steps procedure), and also has far too frequently been entertained by the Supreme Court.
The Perumal Murugan case, presented a great chance for the Madras High Court to spell out the limits of the courts’ jurisdiction, and the impermissibility of judicial censorship. But, it failed to do so.
The most troubling part is – ‘The courts themselves are arriving at the conclusion whether the book (One Part Woman in this case) breaks or do not break any laws’. (just by relying upon arguments by different sides)
The verdicts given in many previous cases (even in the Perumal case) also shows how this form of analysis is heavily judge-centric, depending almost entirely on what an individual judge feels about a controversial work.
For speech to be truly free, the judiciary must stop relying upon the rigid straitjacket model it is following; it should understand its limitations on judicial censorship and follow the procedures laid down by the Constitution of India (as mentioned above)
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues ; Governance Issues
Export Oriented Unit (EoU) Scheme
Objective: To boost exports and increase production
Scheme: Indian companies that produce goods solely for export can register as ‘export-oriented units’. In doing so, these producers become exempt from duty payments on a range of resources used in production
Time for a relook at the EoU Scheme—
Is there really a need— Yes— due to the following reasons
Rising trade deficit
To achieve its target of $900 billion exports by 2020 as envisaged in the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) of 2015–20
Gradual reduction in EoUs after the SEZ Act—
Inability in fulfilling the net foreign exchange (NFE) obligations
Not paying the central sales tax (CST)
Exceeding the limit in sales to the domestic tariff area (DTA)
Growth and performance
Growth Trend: Downward; constitutes around 20 per cent of the total registered EoUs
SEZ Act coming in force
Government’s inability to utilise properly the uniqueness of the 100-per-cent-EoU Scheme
Performance: Fallen drastically as well as turned negative in 2010-12
Withdrawal of the tax benefits under the Income Tax Act, 1961 from 1 April 2011 (EoUs opted out)
No internal audit mechanism to check and facilitate the functioning of EoUs in place
Cases of misrepresentation and non-compliance: Around 48 cases of incorrect/irregular DTA sales were recorded— duty forgone, irregular internal audit system
Clearance of products into DTA often exceeds these prescribed limits
Complexities that arise due to its size
Lack of entrepreneurial talent
Lack of promotion of the scheme
Limited share in manufacturing
Inability of the FTP to make the best of the 100-per cent-EoU scheme
Steps to improve performance
Revise the scheme to suit the changing global environment
Initiate policies to stop the downward trend of EoU growth and performance with timelines by utilising the uniqueness of EoUs
Implement an internal audit system and ensure that EoUs submit APRs timely containing relevant data related to exports, duty forgone, DTA sales, etc.
Fix liability for any non-compliance
Modify the provisions for EoU to achieve objectives and ensure proper functioning and monitoring, but without affecting its competitiveness with other related schemes and acts
Clear the ambiguities and inconsistencies in role and procedure between policies and departments
Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020
Target: $900 billion exports by 2020
Raise India’s share in world exports from 2% to 3.5%.
New Schemes: Merchandise Exports from India Scheme & Services Exports from India Scheme
Higher level of rewards under MEIS for export items with High domestic content and value addition
Chapter-3 incentives extended to units located in SEZs.
Export obligation under EPCG scheme reduced to 75% to Promote domestic capital goods manufacturing.
FTP to be aligned with Make in India, Digital India and Skills India initiatives.
Duty credit scrips made freely transferable and usable for payment of custom duty, excise duty and service tax.
Export promotion mission to take on board state Governments
Unlike annual reviews, FTP will be reviewed after two-and-Half years.
Higher level of support for export of defence, farm Produce and eco-friendly products.