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Congress government plans to further stifle free speech

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The first amendment to the constitution proposed by the first prime minister of our country was to stifle free speech so that nobody could criticise him or his policies. Anand Ranganathan has compiled a must-read thread about it.

The current chief minister of Punjab aims to take the regressive law a step further; he wants to give life imprisonment to anyone who dares criticize religion.

In a country where religious sentiments are hurt at the drop of a hat, we must be wary even in proposing such a law. I have three major objections.

Firstly, this not only goes against the modern understanding of free speech but also goes against the ancient Indian tradition of Shastrarth. Criticizing superstitious religious beliefs and inhumane religious practices should definitely be covered under the umbrella of free speech. Any half-brained dumb nut can claim that his (and occasionally her) religious sentiments have been hurt. If we are not allowed to criticize religion, how will we make a course correction? One wonders if anyone would be able to speak up against the customs like Triple Talaq, entry of women into temples and Dargahs etc. Would we have successfully eradicated Sati if such laws were in place?

Secondly, it will set a precedent and other conservative states might start emulating this. The domino’s effect which might follow this might be untrollable and would take us decades back in terms of free speech laws.

Lastly, blasphemy laws have selectively been used in the past. Is there a guarantee that it will not be used selectively in future? One might argue that any law can be selectively used which does not mean that the law should not exist. But would not you agree that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that a law is not abused? There are reasons to worry when a law which has been selectively used in the past is being made harsher without ensuring that abuse would be stopped.

My hope is that draft does not become the law but it is unlikely given that the Congress has a majority in Punjab and it should not face any trouble in passing the law. So my last hope is that courts strike it down and declare this and, hopefully, the first amendment, unconstitutional.

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