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RELOOK ON THE LIMITATION OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH

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By Biplab Roy

A departed soul is not even in peace today in the haven not because of scarcity of the amenities but his happiness in the haven is at stake due the indecent question now a day raised by the people of the earth.

One of such questions has recently appeared in the front page of the leading English Newspaper The Telegraph (Siliguri) dated 2nd December, 2014 which is quoted below:

“Had Lal Bahadur Shastri been able to foresee that such a grandson would be born into his family, he would not have married.”

Unfortunately, the ever said respected person would not have given any answer to this indecent question raised by a young and educated Member of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) of the West Bengal who happens to be his great grandson in age, due to his self-discipline and self-respect even if he would have been alive.

This is not an isolated statement of the political leaders and the elected representatives in the Indian democracy but this type of statement frequently comes in the print and electronic media round the clock. One sitting Minister of the Union of India has recently made a statement in Delhi in a public rally creating stormy atmosphere in both the Houses of the Parliament.

Her statement was “The people of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (desendants of Ram) or haramzaadon (those who are illegitimately born).” While making such statement probably she had forgotten the law of the land and the value of oath she has taken before assuming the office of minister.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that our society always disfavours illegitimacy of child. An illegitimate child means a child who is born out of the void marriage. Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 has given equal status to both the legitimate and illegitimate child and both are entitled to inherit the property of the father in equal share.

It is not an end here, very recently one Chief Minister while addressing at a rally has commented “the erstwhile rulers of Bengal had not been able to do anything themselves. And now, they were out to trip up (“give bamboo in the rear”) those who were trying to bring in change.” She further said “Bamboo grows in jungles and used to make houses. The day the bamboo starts chasing them, they would not know what to do.”

All these statements were made within a span of seven days and have given rise a debate at different parts of the country on the limitation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution and have also questioned the value of “oath” taken by the Members of the Parliament, Members of Legislative Assembly and Ministers before entering into their respective office. In this context, it is pertinent to mention the view of Martin Luther King Jr. which is mentioned below:

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

Has a person right to make indecent and hate statement under the cover of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution?

I think, every man of reason will say “no”. Article 19 (1) (a) is one of the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution and this right is the lifeblood of the democracy. In absence of this right, human life in a democracy is worse than animal.

The freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution are subject to some restrictions when such right is exercised at the cost of (I) the sovereignty and integrity of the Nation (II) the Security of the State, (III) Friendly relations with foreign States, (IV) public order (V) decency or morality, (VI) contempt of Court, (VII) defamation (VIII) incitement to an offence.

Question comes whether the aforesaid statements made by the Member of Parliament and Ministers do not come within the mischief of (1) decency or morality; (2) defamation; and (3) incitement to an offence as provided in clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution? Article 51A of the Constitution prescribes the Fundamental Duties of every citizen of India. One of the Fundamental Duties is to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India.

Whether the aforesaid statements of the elected representatives are not a breach of observing their Fundamental Duties in terms of Article 51A of the Constitution? Who will check them when they themselves violate the law of the land by their indecent statement? Such a statement no doubt causes severe pain to the departed souls who fought for Independence of the Country.

Each of the aforesaid persons has taken oath under the constitution. Relevant portion of the oath is “I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established and that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.” Undoubtedly, the aforesaid statements are contrary to the oath they have taken.

We are accustomed to see that the Members of Parliament, Members of the Legislative Assembly and also the Ministers make statements openly not only derogatory to the Constitutional provisions and but such statements are offences under various penal laws.

The people do not approve their conduct but remain mum before the organized force. We are really helpless because of such attitudes of some of the elected representatives who are polluting the democracy for their own interest.

It is now time to wake up and identify those persons who are playing with the laws of the land and the sentiment of the people of India.

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