Saturday, July 20, 2024

Freedom of Speech in India: Perception vs. Reality

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Recent surveys have criticized India and its government for restricting free speech. However, Freedom of speech is a fundamental right enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The propaganda claims by the Western Media have pushed this topic of debate into the grey zone of interpretations by power mongers and individual beliefs. In India, the freedom of speech entails several duties as well for all its citizens. Let us walk this route of complex twists and turns to explore the perceptions and realities surrounding freedom of speech in India.

Freedom of Speech: What People Think It Means


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Freedom of Speech and Expression - Article 19(1)(a) | Law column
PC Law Column

Perception 1: Absolute Unrestricted Expression

Many Western media outlets and Liberals perceive freedom of speech as an unbridled right to express any opinion. They often use media mouthpieces and left-leaning stages to spew their venom irrespective of its content or consequences. They delude the Indian public by presenting their diatribe as their voice. These people often confuse their thoughts with the truth. Thus, they use the guise of freedom of speech without limitations, often equating it with an absolute shield against repercussions.

Perception 2: License for Hate Speech

Recently, the Indian public has seen subtle and obvious hate-inciting speeches. Such dialogues are often small, innocent bite-sized pieces sunk into lengthy pseudo-intellectual conversations. Moreover, public figures and political personas use questionable language against communities, rivals, or even religions. Such people suffer from a significant misconception that the idea that freedom of speech provides a license for hate-filled speech and offensive rhetoric. Thus, they individuals misinterpret this right, assuming it safeguards their ability to spew hatred or engage in discriminatory speech.

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Perception 3: Immunity from Legal Consequences

Remarks like ‘Eradicate Sanatana Dharma’ and ‘Sanatana Dharma is like malaria and dengue’ have been erupting in the social and political scene of India. These remarks show that people have a prevailing belief that freedom of speech grants immunity from legal actions. The spewers of such verbal vomit of hate believe that once their words are spoken or written, they are shielded from any legal repercussions. Moreover, they do not care about any harm their words might cause. Thereby, leading to a perception that this right saves them from any legal consequence.

The Reality of Freedom of Speech in India

Does freedom of speech mean that we should be allowed to say anything against our country? - Indian Youth
PC Indian Youth

Reality 1: Reasonable Restrictions Exist

While the Indian Constitution does indeed uphold freedom of speech, it is essential to understand that it comes with certain restrictions. Moreover, these restrictions are legally listed as “reasonable restrictions”. Therefore, the Indian law prefers to maintain public order and protect the sovereignty and integrity of India against an individual’s right to jabber inconsequential and hate-inspiring content. The Indian government also hopes to prevent defamation, prevent contempt of court, and prevent incitement to violence. Thus, any speech that violates the aforementioned is also legally actionable.

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Reality 2: Balancing Act

The freedom of speech in India is a delicate balance between individual rights and societal awareness. While the right allows all individuals to verbalize their opinions, they must weigh the consequences of their words. All Bharatiyas should adopt the adage of ‘Think Before You Speak’. Bharat encourages open dialogue, expression of dissent, and diversity of opinion. However, it also ensures that verbal or written speeches do not harm the interests of the nation, an individual, or a community.

Reality 3: Legal Accountability

Contrary to the popular misconception of legal immunity, freedom of speech does not shield any individual from legal accountability. Currently, Bharat is under the volley of a large number of defamatory, hate-filled, or seditious speeches. Such individuals or organizations are liable to face legal consequences if the government or community chooses to pursue them.

The case of Mr. Rahul Gandhi vs. The Modi Community is an apt example of the consequences of ill-thought-of words.

While the Supreme Court is trying to decide if Mr. Rahul Gandhi should be punished for his speeches, it must keep in mind that all rights come with equal responsibilities. The judges must then decide if Mr. Rahul Gandhi was judicious with his speech or did he, a well-known political figure, hurt the sentiments of people by spouting his ‘pearls of wisdom for peals of laughter’. Moreover, the judges must decide if they will let Mr. Gandhi become a role model for inciting hate against a community. Finally, the Supreme Court must also decide whether people like Mr. Rahul Gandhi and Mr. Udhayanidhi Stalin should be allowed to go scot-free after refusing to apologize for their words of hate.  

The Essence of Freedom of Speech

Advanced Citizenship Education-Bethlehem Moravian College Social Studies Department : Rights are useless without responsibility by Alexander Scott
PC Advanced Citizenship Education

To understand the concept of freedom of speech an individual requires mental and social maturity. These qualities are often lacking in the current generation of role models and public figures. Thus, the government of India is required to help such individuals or organizations acknowledge the essence and the limitations of this particular right. While ‘Freedom of Speech’ empowers individuals to voice their opinions, it also necessitates responsible self-expression. In conclusion, striking the right balance between rights and responsibility remains a crucial step in upholding the principles of democracy, unity, and justice in this diverse and vibrant nation of Bharat.

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