EVERGREEN ISSUES RELATED TO CONSTITUTION By: Akash Agrawal
ISSUES RELATED TO CONSTITUTION FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION DEFAMATION Whv in news? The Supreme Court recently upheld the validity of the criminal defamation law. The court pronounced its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code providing for criminal defamation . The court said though free speech is a "highly valued and cherished right" imprisonment is a proportionate punishment for defamatory remarks . "Sections 499 and 500 of IPC prescribes two vears' imprisonment for a person found guilty of defamation."
Why it should be retained? According to Supreme Court . Reputation of an individual, constituent in Article 21 is an equally important right as free speech. Criminalization of defamation to protect individual dignity and reputation is a "reasonable restriction" . Editors have to take the responsibility of everything they publish as it has far reaching consequences in an individual and country's life The acts of expression should be looked at both from the perspective of the speaker and the place at which he speaks, the audience etc.
Other arguments It has been part of statutory law for over 70 years. It has neither diluted our vibrant democracy nor abridged free speech . Protection for "legitimate criticism" on a question of public interest is available in the 9 Civil law of defamation & 9 Under exceptions of Section 499 IPC . Mere misuse or abuse of law can never be a reason to render a provision unconstitutional rather lower judiciary must be sensitized to prevent misuse . Monetary compensation in civil defamation is not proportional to the excessive harm done to the reputation
Significance of this judgement . The judgment raises reputation to the level of "shared value of the collective" and . According to the judgment, the theory of balancing of rights dictates that along with elevates it to the status of a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution the right to freedom of speech and expression, there is a correlative duty on citizens not to interfere with the liberty of others, as everyone is entitled to the dignity of person and of reputation Why it should be deleted? . Freedom of speech and expression of media is important for a vibrant democracy and the threat of prosecution alone is enough to suppress the truth. Many times the influential people misuse this provision to suppress any voices against them. x Considering anecdotal evidence, every dissent may be taken as unpalatable criticism
. The right to reputation cannot be extended to collectives such as the government, which has the resources to set right damage to their reputations. . The process in the criminal cases itself becomes a punishment for the accused as it requires him to be personally present along with a lawyer on each date of hearing. . Given that a civil remedy to defamation already exists, no purpose is served by retaining the criminal remedy except to coerce, harass and threaten. It goes against the global trend of decriminalizing defamation . Many countries, including neighboring Sri Lanka, have decriminalized defamation. In 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights called upon states to abolish criminal defamation, noting that it intimidates citizens and makes them shy away from exposing wrongdoing.
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