TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
- Statutory, regulatory and various quasi?judicial bodies
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Censorship framework in India – Analysis
The constitution upholds the freedom of speech and expression through article 19(1)(a) and it has served as the bedrock of democracy since independence. It is much a matter of concern that censorship – political, cultural and artistic has continued to plague the society simultaneously in multiple forms.
- The simplicity with which Freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right is easily displaced by ruling establishment or judiciary.
- In this regard two of the recent decisions have raised concerns.
- The Jharkhand government’s decision to ban the Sahitya Akademi awardee Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s 2015 book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, for portraying the Santhal community especially Santhal women“in bad light”.
- An order of a civil judge at Delhi’s Karkardooma Court, restrained the sale of Priyanka Pathak-Narain’s new book on Baba Ramdev, titled Godman to Tycoon.
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie was banned for allegedly being insulting to the Prophet.
- The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger was banned for portraying Indian Gods in a humourous manner.
- Understanding Islam through Hadis by Ram Swarup was banned for being harsh towards Islam
- Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence by Jaswant Singh was banned for being sympathetic towards Jinnah.
- Lajja by Taslima Nasreen banned for hurting Muslim sentiments.
- An Area of Darkness by V.S. Naipaul was banned for portraying India in an objective manner.
- The legal authority of the government to ban books flows from Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- Section 95 authorises State governments to forfeit copies of any newspaper, book, or document that “appears” to violate certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code, such as Section 124A (sedition), Sections 153A or B (communal or class disharmony), Section 292 (obscenity), or Section 295A (insulting religious beliefs).
- Under Section 96 of the CrPC, any person aggrieved by the government’s order has the right to challenge it before the high court of that State.
- The key element of Section 95 is that it allows governments to ban publications without having to prove, before a court of law, that any law has been broken.
- Hence the basic structure of the law in itself is flawed and attacks the fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution.
- The judicial injunction of the Karkardooma case is more a concern as the judiciary took the decision without even hearing the opposite party.
- Long drawn legal battles and many times among unequal sides in money power and legal fire power.
- In 2011, the High Court of Delhi held that this basic common law rule acquired even greater force in the context of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and reiterated that injunctions did not serve the balance between freedom of speech and a person’s right to reputation.
- The high court reaffirmed the basic principle of our Constitution: that the presumption always ought to be in favour of the freedom of speech and expression.
- The concerns are also about the misuse of state power to ban books just to play to the galleries or politically convenient reasons.
- All these desires urgent reforms in the procedures.
This repeated attack on the fundamental freedom should be protected by a continuing and unapologetic affirmation of free speech as a core, foundational, and non-negotiable value of our Republic and our Constitution. For a vibrant democracy it is important to have a citizenry that free from fear and heads held high.
Connecting the dots:
- Critically discuss the impact of recent actions of legislature and judiciary amounting to limiting freedom of speech and expression. Elaborate.
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