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“Free speech is the foundation of a democratic society. A free exchange of ideas, dissemination of information without restraints, dissemination of knowledge, airing of different viewpoints, debating and forming one’s own views and expressing them, are the basic ideas of a free society. This freedom alone makes it possible for people to formulate their own views and opinions on a proper basis and to exercise their social, economic and political rights in a free society in an informed manner. Restraints on this right have been jealously watched by courts.” This statement was rightly given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the case of Union of India v Motion Pictures Association (AIR 1999 SC 2334).
The preamble to our constitution defines our nation as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, however, given the actions of the authorities, in various cases in the past few years, it seems as if the Nation is democratic only till the people do not express their opinions.
In the case of Palko v Connecticut [302 US 319 (1937)], the right to freedom of speech and expression was described as “the touch stone of individual liberty”, the matrix, and the indispensable condition of nearly every form of freedom.
The Constitution of India has often been defined as the basic law of the land. It has been stated in the statute itself as well as versed by various judgments, that no person, law or organization is above the Constitution and that is what the fathers intended while framing this sacred document.
Even though, the statute provides its own limitations for the rightful exercise of the Rights and Liberties, in the present era, it seems as if the various politicians and the authorities have made their own laws, thereby making a mockery out of the freedom of the people. The various cases that were acted upon, by the various authorities, in the past ear and seek to raise that same issue have been highlighted below:
Earlier this year, the much known organization, AIB was slapped with a defamation case for sharing a meme about our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, when the pictures of his lookalike surfaced on various social networking site.
The meme was allegedly reported to the authorities after it showed the Hon’ble PM’s face with the much famous dog filter from Snap Chat. It was observed that while another such, more important issue was ongoing, the authorities readily responded to this case.
The registration of the case was criticized on various levels. Mr. Shashi Tharoor, an honored politician from Congress, as a rebuke to this incident, used his own face for the filter and uploaded the same.
Still a hyped issue, the case was started when the RJ uploaded a comical song describing the state of the roads of Mumbai City. While she was right in her words, with the amount of potholes on the roadways being more than the area square of roads, her fault was that she went against the Bombay Municipal Corporation, who in turn, registered a Rs. 10.000/- defamation suit and also slapped a fine under her name, for letting a breed pool outside her house.
The BMC, who are not only criticized by the citizens but also by various stars, was swift enough to raid her house, without prior notice and book her for various issued a notice for defaults on her part.
Mr. Devu Chodnakar, 31 year old man from Goa, was recently arrested for posting certain comments against the Hon’ble Prime Minister and raised some concerns about the Cristian Community, under his term.
The reasons cited by the Goa Cyber Crime Department were that custodial interrogation of the accused is very much essential to find out any motive of a larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony in the state.
Mr. Tej Bahadur Yadav, a BSF Jawan, had uploaded a video expressing his issues with regards to the degraded quality of food that is provided to the military personnel. Even though, the way to do the same, was not entirely appropriate, however, compelling him to seek retirement and his dismissal were some steps, which were to harsh for a person who has been serving for the Nation.
The fault of the man was that during the election campaigning, he had shared a picture of the Hon’ble Prime Minister with a shoe print on his face. Even though, the picture may be considered as derogatory, however, an arrest considering that the man was just being a part of the aggressive debates taking place on the social media.
When in school, every child has the tendency to develop some strong opinions, which he/she likes to share with his friends on the social media platform. These pinions, however strong are a way of the development of the child’s transformation into a citizen of the Nation.
In the present case, the student was jailed for a period of 11 days for sharing and allegedly ‘obnoxious’ post about the Minister for Urban Development. At such a tender age, an action such as an arrest, not only curbs the freedom of a child but also sets an example where all the students become scared enough till the extent of never using their Freedom of Speech and Expression.
The two girls from Maharashtra were kept in a 14 day Judicial Custody, merely for asking a question about the shutting down of the entire Mumbai city on the sad demise of Mr Bal Thackeray.
More bizarre was the fact that while Shahin was the one, who uploaded the post, Renu was arrested merely for liking the post. Maybe the freedom should only be kept to oneself, if this is what happens when you try to ask questions.
Mr. Mahapatra, a chemistry professor of the Jadavpur University of Kolkata, was allegedly arrested for sharing a cartoon depiction of Chief Minister Ms. Mamta Banerjee, in 2012. Later on, he was also attacked by the members of the party.
Merely because of forwarding a simple cartoon, he was given a time, which would develop a fer into the mind of anyone for speaking against the government, which has been elected to ‘represent’ the people.
A small plastic packaging businessman, belonging to the state of Tamil Nadu, was arrested for sharing a tweet which questioned the assets and the net worth of Mr. Karti Chidambaram.
Even though it is a law that every politician should be transparent with regards to his assets, this man was arrested for practicing his Right to Know. This action, criticized as much as can be, only highlights the sensitivity that the Government has with regards to its establishment that it has to arrest the aware citizens of the Country to emphasize on its presence.
The Halsbury’s Laws of India has stated that “Criticism of public measures or comments on government action, however strongly worded, fall within reasonable limits and are consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.”
This statement can be held to be true in a State, where democracy has been established in it’s true faith and sense. However, a country, where a man is arrested or detained merely for wording his opinion, cannot be held to be democratic or people specific in any way whatsoever.
Maybe, it is high time, when we, the people, the government and the authorities, take a stringent step to become liberal and to give way to our opinions rather than curbing them.