Quasi-Truth Versus Reality!
Once again, the Supreme Court (SC) of India has reminded the State that Freedom of Speech cannot be curbed by filing criminal cases against a person! Dismissing charges against Editor of the Shillong Times (a local daily of north-east Indian Province of Meghalaya) Patricia Mukhim, the Apex Court recently said that the Constitution (of India) gives the Right to Express Opinion to all the citizens. The SC has performed its duty of safeguarding the Constitution. However, the question arises here: Why does this basic statement have to be reminded time and again?
It may be noted that the struggle of the Media in order to get the Truth published had begun in India during the British Colonial Era. The Media had shown the courage to fight against Foreign Rulers, whenever they made attempts to silence the press. The Indian journalists did not hesitate to write the Truth even in the face of the cruelty of the Colonial Law. And now when India is all set to mark its 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022, the State is sending journalists to jails, if they remind the Government of its duty! What could be more embarrassing than this, especially for the people of the world’s Largest Democracy?
Local tribal people recently beat up some teenagers from other communities brutally in Shillong. Later, Mukhim raised an important question on the Social Media: Why did the Chief Minister of Mizoram fail to protect those teenagers? She said that those, who did not belong to that particular tribe, were also citizens of the province. It was then that a tribal organisation did proceed to lodge a complaint with the Police, claiming that she had made an attempt to create communal unrest! Meanwhile, the Apex Court has dismissed as imaginary fear that the editor’s Social Media post could lead to clashes between one tribe and others. Delivering the verdict, SC Judges L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat mentioned former US President Thomas Jefferson‘s (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) famous quote: “It is of utmost importance to keep all speech free in order for the truth to emerge and have a civil society.” The two judges also said: “In such instances, if the victims voice their discontent, and speak out, especially if the State Authorities turn a blind eye, or drag their feet, such voicing of discontent is really a cry for anguish, for justice denied – or delayed. This is exactly what appears to have happened in this case.” They added: “The attack upon six non-locals, carried out by masked individuals, is not denied by the State; its reporting too is not denied.”
Once, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) – an Indian Lawyer, Anti-Colonial Nationalist and Political Ethicist, who had initiated Non-Violent Resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s Independence from British Rule – had to face trial for one of his articles published in the Young India magazine. Nearly a century ago, Gandhi was heard telling a British Judge: “If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.” (The Court being held in the Divisional Commissioner’s Office at Shahibagh, 23-03-1922) Unfortunately, the Government harasses media persons, if they criticise the former for its misdeeds, mistakes or failures in Gandhi’s India, today…
Defamation cases against journalists for sedition or spreading communal unrest have become a common phenomenon in the South Asian Nation, nowadays. Hence, it has become increasingly difficult for the media persons to perform their duties. In most of the cases, the main objective of the complainant is to waste the respondent’s money and time and to damage the latter’s reputation by filing a case against a journalist. As the Political Society has nurtured the culture of intolerance towards protests, it has subsequently become difficult for the Judiciary to sensitise the Society about Freedom of Speech.
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