With billboards being vandalised, posters being ripped off and stones being pelted at every second movie, book, opinion, tweet and statement, the very concept of free speech is being threatened in our country. Even though the article 19 (1)(a) under the constitution of India gives us the freedom of speech, the very next one 19(2) lists ‘reasonable restrictions’ to this freedom. But who decides what is ‘reasonable’? Those self anointed custodians of morality who under the garb of hooliganism carry out ‘activism’ and malign the very meaning of this word or those ‘opinion’ shapers who with a few tweets and re-tweets decide what is right or wrong?
In this entire battle between right or wrong, steps in the law of Criminal Defamation, a colonial era, made over 150 years ago that leads to censorship. Criminal defamation can lead to people being put in jail for something they have said publicly. Often being misused to stifle dissent, humour and anything that ‘offends’ those who are in power and position, this law follows an SC judgment in May, which held Indian Penal Code’s provisions against defamation as constitutional. This particular provision has time and again drawn flak from a section of writers, activists, journalists and petitioners. One such person is Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Tathagata Satpathy, he has launched a website for public consultation and endorsement of a draft Protection of Speech and Reputation Bill. He intends to present it to the Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill. Newsd, supports him in his initiative and many others who campaign for the freedom of speech in India, and here is how you can contribute to the cause by signing a petition here: www.speechbill.in