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Enacting laws against insulting heads of state in India: Learning from Germany’s example

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Mohan MURTI
Mohan MURTI
Degree in Law and Science; Master's in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. Accomplished leader with over 40 years of successful experience in global business management. Demonstrated ability of revenue generation while promoting business strategy on international basis - largely based in Europe. Initially, nominated by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India as India's Representative to UNITED NATIONS-IPS, Paris and Zurich and since 1993, Director, Europe, CII, Cologne, Germany. Since 2004, Managing Director, Europe, Reliance Europe. Expertise: India & EU market entry strategies, cross-cultural trainer in aspects of doing business, M&A transactions, joint ventures, legal contract negotiations, litigation, arbitration & disputes resolution, FDI pitching & negotiations, and post merger integration, technical collaborations, joint ventures. Leadership Coach & Cross-Cultural Trainer noted for establishing team synergies. Articulate communicator with strong interpersonal skills; establishing and strengthening professional liaisons with European and Indian governments and corporations at Board level. Possess significant expertise in high level negotiations with remarkable success in employing best practices and boosting productivity. Proven success-generating business across cultures and providing business leadership combined with legal and financial aptitude required to deliver superlative returns for shareholders. Frequent guest lecturer at European management schools. Op-Ed Columnist for a leading Indian business newspaper.

Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right in any democratic society. However, it is important to strike a balance between the exercise of this right and the protection of public figures, especially heads of state, from unwarranted insults and defamation. Given the present instances of Rahul Gandhi and other politicians from several opposition parties insulting an elected Prime Minister, I strongly suggest we will explore the significance of enacting laws against insulting heads of state in India, taking inspiration from Germany’s legal framework.

Respecting the Dignity of Heads of State:

The heads of state, as the highest representatives of a nation, embody its dignity, sovereignty, and values. They play a crucial role in fostering unity, stability, and international relations. It is therefore imperative that they be shielded from personal attacks, slander, and offensive remarks that may undermine their authority or harm the nation’s reputation.

The German Model:

Germany has implemented a law that penalizes the act of insulting foreign heads of state, demonstrating a strong commitment to safeguarding the dignity of public officials. This law, known as Section 103 of the German Criminal Code, makes it a criminal offense to insult a foreign head of state. By establishing legal consequences for such actions, Germany sends a clear message that disrespectful behavior towards heads of state will not be tolerated.

Adopting a Similar Legislation in India:

India, as the world’s largest democracy, could benefit from enacting a similar law to protect the dignity of heads of state. While India does have laws against defamation, they do not specifically address insults targeted at heads of state. Introducing legislation that explicitly criminalizes such insults would provide a stronger deterrent and ensure the respect and decorum befitting the office.

Preserving International Relations:

Insulting a head of state can have severe consequences for bilateral relations between nations. It can strain diplomatic ties, disrupt trade partnerships, and impede collaborative efforts on global issues. By enacting laws against such insults, India can send a message of respect and professionalism, strengthening its international image and fostering cooperation with other countries.

Balancing Free Speech and Legal Protection:

Critics of laws against insulting heads of state often argue that they curtail freedom of speech. However, it is essential to strike a balance between protecting public officials and maintaining the right to express opinions and engage in constructive criticism. A well-crafted law should focus on intentional and malicious insults rather than genuine criticism or satirical expressions, ensuring that it does not become a tool for suppressing dissent.

Safeguarding Democracy and Public Order:

Insults against heads of state can create social unrest, encourage hostility, and incite violence among citizens. The state has a responsibility to maintain public order and prevent the escalation of such situations. By enacting laws against insulting heads of state, India can promote a harmonious society that values civility, respect, and responsible exercise of freedom of expression.

India, with her rich democratic tradition, must recognize the need to enact laws that protect the dignity of heads of state while upholding freedom of speech. Drawing inspiration from Germany’s legal framework, India can strike the right balance between safeguarding public figures from insults and preserving the essence of a vibrant democracy. Such legislation would help in maintaining strong bilateral relations, fostering a culture of respect, and ensuring the smooth functioning of the nation.

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Mohan MURTI
Mohan MURTI
Degree in Law and Science; Master's in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. Accomplished leader with over 40 years of successful experience in global business management. Demonstrated ability of revenue generation while promoting business strategy on international basis - largely based in Europe. Initially, nominated by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India as India's Representative to UNITED NATIONS-IPS, Paris and Zurich and since 1993, Director, Europe, CII, Cologne, Germany. Since 2004, Managing Director, Europe, Reliance Europe. Expertise: India & EU market entry strategies, cross-cultural trainer in aspects of doing business, M&A transactions, joint ventures, legal contract negotiations, litigation, arbitration & disputes resolution, FDI pitching & negotiations, and post merger integration, technical collaborations, joint ventures. Leadership Coach & Cross-Cultural Trainer noted for establishing team synergies. Articulate communicator with strong interpersonal skills; establishing and strengthening professional liaisons with European and Indian governments and corporations at Board level. Possess significant expertise in high level negotiations with remarkable success in employing best practices and boosting productivity. Proven success-generating business across cultures and providing business leadership combined with legal and financial aptitude required to deliver superlative returns for shareholders. Frequent guest lecturer at European management schools. Op-Ed Columnist for a leading Indian business newspaper.
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