Draconian laws

Draconian laws

On 11 Feb 17, at the Hindu Huddle Tathagata Satpathy, MP and Editor, Dharitri; politician Manish Tewari and lawyer Gautam Bhatia held conversation with Mini Kapoor, Ideas Editor, The Hindu.

Do these four laws enhance our security of curb our freedom?

On 11 Feb 17, at the Hindu Huddle Tathagata Satpathy, MP and Editor, Dharitri; politician Manish Tewari and lawyer Gautam Bhatia held conversation with Mini Kapoor, Ideas Editor, The Hindu.

Notwithstanding the subjective component in the word, ‘Draconian’, four Indian laws were discussed. They were Criminal Defamation, Sedition, Contempt of Court and Parliamentary Privilege.

In the age of Internet and Facebook, many feel that the Criminal Defamation Law as outlined in Section 499 and 500 of the IPC should be repealed. Critics of the law believe it mussels the citizen and provides protection to the state, big business and powerful persons. UK in 2009 and Kenya in 2016 have repealed criminal defamation laws; stating that it is inconsistent with freedom of free speech and expression.

Crimes of Sedition are filed under 124A of the IPC. The law was drafted prior to Independence and Mahatma Gandhi was also charged under the law. Recently, a case was filed against Actress-Politician Divya Spandana, who after returning from Pakistan said the place was ‘not Hell’. The statement was a riposte to Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar, who had remarked that going to Pakistan was like going to Hell.

Contempt of Court is prosecuted under Section 2 of the Contempt of Court Law. Recently, former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, by tendering an unconditional apology, extricated himself from a contempt case, wherein he had criticized the verdict of the court.

Privileges are accorded to members of Parliament and legislative assemblies, under Articles 105 and 194 of the Constitution. Under the rules, members are protected from civil and criminal liability, for statements made during the course legislative duties.

Assessment

Of the four laws that were discussed, Sedition and Criminal Defamation should perhaps be repealed first. Social media with its reach and anonymity challenges these laws more, making them more restrictive for mainstream media.

Comments