Friday, November 27, 2015

A Clipped Bird

Clipped Bird freedom of speech silence article 19 twitterFreedom of speech and expression is a double-edged sword you can be offensive with it or you can use it to promote welfare. It’s undernourished of mankind remaining silent when you can identify problems and reflect a range of perspective with the right to freedom of speech and expression. There is confusion regarding the classification of news media. Is it an activity deserving protection under article 19(1)(a) or is it business under Article 19(1)(g) as due to this the Indian press has a two-fold protection. News paper and electronic media have enormous raw power and saying that press is abusing the power with justification of ethics and legal aspect doesn't reflect a confident rebuttal but lowers our confidence in the government.

So does one needs to be the standard bearer for their side of the argument and not for free speech. This indulges to the motion whether free speech in reference to press is under serious threat in India?
The rights of a citizen and the rights of a media business owner fall under different factions, and cannot be considered the same. Freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of circulation, to the extent that the ability to convey one's expression is inherent in that freedom. Press freedom under Article 19(1) (g) has to be secured as such to allow the public to be well informed. The government not always but infringes this public right to be well informed. An example of this would be when the IT act of 2008 was passed. It was passed without any discussion in the parliament to which all parties agreed because not only the congress government but all the parties did want to control the press. This act was passed when no was looking, the press in fact was sleeping on it, Google, Facebook and Yahoo were called to remove 355 pieces of content out of which 258 were all criticisms of the government(congress), 3 were related to pornography and 1 was related to national interest (Google transparency report). After this, they decided to pass a private member bill which will then regulate the press and in that if the press crosses the line, jail for 5 year,licence being suspended for 11 months and fine up to 5 crores would be imposed on them. When the press woke up to that and exposed the bill it was quietly withdrawn. Government appointed Markandey Katju, press council chairman then passes a resolution asking the government in the very same language with the same sanctions imposed but included the electronic media as well.
We are not living in the joined rooms with the west, this government is very quick in bringing out tear gases, water canons and arresting people but however, when goons are coming to stop Salman Rushdie from coming to the Jaipur literature festival they say we cannot control it and stay away. It’s a seasonal republic, it works when it feels like. When a cabinet minister’s speaking his mind on twitter resulted in him stepping down, imagine us sitting here and expressing the freedom we want.
Turning the wheels what relevance does the restriction of Article 19(2) has?
Its an interesting question because infact when Section 66A of IT Act was struck down.The judgment drafted by Justice Nariman made some sweeping observations, ones that even the government have no difficulty agreeing with but it does seem to raise a fundamental question about article 19(2) since article 19 2 forces “ reasonable restriction” on freedom of speech. What are these reasonable restrictions? There are 8 restriction already listen out in the Article but some of those can be liable to misuse, a very interesting example here would be that the constitution permits the government to restrict freedom of speech and expression if it compromises relations with a friendly country, that would make all foreign policies debates almost impossible. No Indian government has actually tried to follow the letter by restricting discussion of policies in this country but what if I publish a book, which contains interpretive criticism of other countries policies, the last thing I want is someone saying that under article 19(2) this book should be banned. The increase in sense of liberal fight back against the amount of intolerance we have seen in the Indian society in the recent years moves the onus from this to perhaps the time has began to offer a genuine rethink of the entire attitude of freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution. It is premature but maybe we should start looking afresh at the areas of restrictions. Already the question of the board of film census is frequently being challenged. Why should we still follow the legacy bestowed upon us by British raj that has modified theirs? 
The judgment on section 66A has opened these realms of discussion on the freedom of expression. In ways that we believe we can advance. Now how we can do that and to what extent the government will allow us to do is the question for yet another time. 

"The following article is written by Divyangi Singh, a 3rd year law student of Jindal Global Law School."


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