February 18th, 2016
Image Source: The Hindu & India Today
On 16th Feb, 2016, we conducted a poll asking our community members that – Should A Government Be Able To Decide On The Limits Of Free Speech In A Democracy? The intention of the poll was to gauge the emotions floating around on social media after the JNU brawl where a bunch of students were heard sloganeering anti-India comments.
A few of the facts we assume that all of our community members considered before they expressed their opinion, are –
- We have questioned – Should a Government be able to decide on the limits of free speech in a democracy and not – Should BJP be able to decide on the limits of free speech in a democracy. Which means, we can not change our opinion in future, if Congress or any other party comes to power.
- Conducting a poll on Freedom of speech and expression, in no way means either favouring or denouncing the concept of freedom of speech. It’s a poll for people to participate. (For The Logical Indian’s opinion, you can read our articles on the issue)
- The poll is conducted for everyone to participate, respecting each other’s opinion.
- We all understand, freedom of speech comes with responsibility. The question is should it be left on the individual to understand his/her responsibility or we would want the Govt to outline our responsibilities?
Why We Asked This Question?
Because the question is important! The question is important because a democracy empowers every citizen with freedom of expression & speech. (Article 14A) unlike monarchy or dictatorship where one can be jailed for raising voice against the establishment or country.
The 1st question is, does this mean that taking advantage of freedom of speech, can one shout slogans against his/her own country?
The 2nd question is even bigger. The question is does the Govt. of a democratic country be able to imply restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression of its citizens? This question becomes more important in Indian context because, a few years back during the UPA Govt’s rule, the then Union minister for communications and IT, Kapil Sibal has passed a law that anyone posting anything “offensive” just on social media can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance II in 2008.
The entire Indian social media users and all other major opposition parties then had then strongly condemned and protested against this act of the Congress Govt, citing this as the fundamental violation of freedom of speech and expression in a democracy.
POLL: Should a Government be able to decide on the limits of free speech in a democracy?
— The Logical Indian (@LogicalIndians) February 15, 2016
The Logical Indian’s Opinion:
The Logical Indian strongly condemns any destructive slogans/speech against the country by any individual or public representative. We indeed believes that Freedom of Speech & Expression comes with individual responsibility and conscious and no Government should dictate the choice of opinion.
As a logical Indian, one should understand his/her responsibility and should never indulge in commenting anything which is destructive in nature and will hurt the personal, religious or national sentiments.
Yes, not everything in any country is perfect. So, if we do not raise our voice, we can never solve an issue. One must participate in discussions and focus on constructive debates, always with a solution-oriented approach.
Problem: The problem is, the charge which is imposed on an individual against the hate, disrespectful, offensive or anti-national slogans or speeches is the Sedition Act, Section 124A of The Indian Penal Code.
Here’s what it reads –
Section 124A in The Indian Penal Code
124A. Sedition — Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years.
Going by this, it’s evident that the description is too generic for a law. Hence, the danger is it is very much vulnerable to misuse and manipulation.
Suggestion: If the sedition act is here to stay, the only option to prevent the misuse of this law is to outline the words or phrases which will be regarded as violation of the sedition act. For an instance – the censor board of India, CBFC has a ready list of words and phrases which are compulsorily to be censored, if found in a film.
Outlining such phrases or words may restrict the misuse of the sedition law.
The Logical Indian within its limits of freedom of speech and as a responsible alternate-media portal condemns any anti-national sloganeering. As a nation, we should create platforms for constructive debates where all voices could be placed, heard, responded and condemned. Let us move forward from protests to discussions and solving problems.