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DC comment: Poetic freedom

DC
Published Apr 18, 2015, 12:57 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 10:44 am IST
Bearing of the verdict on freedom of speech and expression remains to be seen
Supreme Court of India
 Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict in a very old case pertaining to poetic freedom. The subject is most intriguing as it involves very large principles governing freedom of speech. The obiter dicta point the way to which direction the judges intended to take. As the case also involves the underlying principles of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, pertaining to freedom of speech and expression, the judgement is something to be looked forward to.

The judges were emphatic in declaring that while even lampooning of national icons was permitted as part of literary criticism, they drew the line on using obscene language. As the case pertains to a poem on Mahatma Gandhi, it is nothing short of a cause célèbre. Surrealistic satire the poem may have been, but does poetic licence mean an allusion can entertain reckless fearlessness of thought just for the heck of it?

 

The bearing of the verdict on freedom of speech and expression remains to be seen. But these arguments are important since the nation is feeling the pressures of unfettered freedom of expression in terms of the common man too having his say on social media.

Considering the impact of hate speeches, so much a part of everyday life, and a trail of calumny as opinion on the social media, the time might be ripe to consider where a line can be drawn on the absolute freedom of speech that we were inured to even when we were a fledgling democracy. Comparisons to evolved democracies may be pointless. India must decide for itself.

 

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