Saturday, February 2, 2013

Editorial, "Freedom of Intolerance" in 31 January 2013 issue, Vol. 9, Part 1, No. 2, of LAW ANIMATED WORLD


appears to be available aplenty in our country, and rides over the so-called ‘fundamental right’ of freedom of speech and expression. The raw deal meted out to the famous actor and producer, Kamal Haasan, by intolerant Muslim groups agitating for a ban on his film Viswaroopam and the connivance of the TN Government under Jayalalitha with them is but one very recent instance. Not only intolerance of various ways of life, of creeds and modes of worship, and manners of regions and cultures is the order of the day, but even intolerance of intolerance seems to be irrationally omniscient. True a KCR, or a Kodanda Ram or a Lagadapati or Undavelli might have said some nasty things in their fiery mood but what of all these nauseating FIRs etc. lodged and, gosh, directions by the lower judiciary in various regions to register them? Don’t all these too amount to intolerance of the very freedom of speech and expression which, as Salman Rushdie rightly puts it, includes the freedom to offend too? Isn’t Daniel Gilbert correct in saying: “Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we're in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good and true, it's time to make a run for the fence”?  And to quote Louis Brandeis’ wisdom: “Fear of serious injury alone cannot justify oppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fearsand “The fact that speech is likely to result in some violence or in destruction of property is not enough to justify its suppression. There must be the probability of serious injury to the State. Among free men, the deterrents ordinarily to be applied to crime are education and punishment for violations of the law, not abridgements of the rights of free speech and assembly.To these sterling words, it is only to be added that the laws framed must also be in promotion and not for derogation of the freedom of speech and expression and a periodic review of any such repressive laws, e.g. Section 153A (which even Jinnah disapproved) and the later 153B of IPC, etc. in the spirit of defence of free speech is essential. And the superior courts should wake up and forthwith put an end to this virtual orgy of FIRs and counter-FIRs and bans on films, etc. on flimsy pretexts. §§§