The Moral & Ethical Responsibilities
In a somewhat seemingly Elected Authoritarian System, the Judiciary often plays a vital role in safeguarding the Democratic Values. In India, there is a hybrid or a mixed type of Political Regime that is often created as a result of an incomplete transition from an Authoritarian Regime to a Democratic One. It can also be described as Anocracy or Kakistocracy. Hence, the Supreme Court of India has been playing an important role in safeguarding the Democratic Values since 2014. Yet again, the Apex Court has reminded the Government of India that every journalist is entitled to protection against charges of Sedition.
The Supreme Court has given the reminder while quashing a Sedition Case registered against senior journalist Vinod Dua. After riots in the Indian capital of New Delhi in 2020, a senior leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) moved the court, claiming that Dua, on his YouTube show, had accused PM Modi of using “deaths and terror attacks” to get votes. The journalist was charged under Sections 124A (Sedition), 268 (Public Nuisance), 501 (Printing Matter Known To Be Defamatory) and 505 (Statements Conducive To Public Mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Delivering the judgement in the first week of June, the Apex Court explained the issue of protection of Freedom of Speech and Expression of media personnel, stating: “Every journalist is entitled to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh Judgment (the famous verdict of 1962 on the scope and ambit of offence of Sedition in the IPC).”
The top court further ruled that “disapproval of the measures of Government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means is not sedition”. It held that “comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of the Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence” would not attract the penal offence.
The Supreme Court clearly mentioned: “A citizen has a right to say or write whatever s/he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as s/he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.”
It, from some quarters, is becoming apparent that Prime Minister Modi and his Man Friday Amit Shah, the Home Minister of India, have triggered Judicial Activism by undermining Democratic Values, in ways more than one. For the last seven years, attempts have been made to portray criticism of Modi and his Government as Anti-National Activity! They, possibly, have taken resort to this, chiefly to hide the Government’s failure in tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic, and in boosting up the job market. It is being opined in some quarters that with the Global Media strongly criticising the Modi Administration for poorly handling the second wave of COVID-19 Pandemic, the Indian PM may soon try to erase the tragic memory of the Pandemic by triggering fresh tension with a neighbouring country, or by other means. Furthermore, India is all set to mark its 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022. It will be a golden opportunity for the Indian PM to restore his image with the sentiment of Nationalism!
Authoritarian rulers usually make attempts to legitimise their respective levels of authority by creating a Foreign Enemy, as it helps them inspire people with the sense of Nationalism. It happens not only in India, but also in other parts of the globe. In Myanmar, the Government has portrayed the Rohingya Issue as an internal matter, advising the Global Community not to get worried about it. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, too, has consolidated Power by stating that the Western World is terrified of Turkey’s strength.
In such a situation, the Indian Judiciary has shown the courage to protect the Democratic Values. Otherwise, the Elected Authoritarianism could destroy the fabric of Indian Society. Of course, the Judiciary and the Media have some political responsibility, as well as duty to exercise, especially if the Legislature and the Executive try to destroy the essence of Democracy. This is the Moral Responsibility of the Third and Fourth Pillars of Democracy.
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