Right to criticise: SC ruling should make the police see reason - The Tribune India

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Right to criticise

SC ruling should make the police see reason

Right to criticise

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QUASHING an FIR registered against a professor for his comments denouncing the abrogation of Article 370, the Supreme Court has asserted that every citizen has the right to criticise any decision of the state. The Maharashtra Police had booked Prof Javed Ahmed Hajam under Section 153-A (promoting enmity between groups on the grounds of religion, race, etc.) of the IPC for posting WhatsApp messages such as ‘August 5 — Black Day Jammu & Kashmir’ and ‘14th August — Happy Independence Day Pakistan’. Setting aside an order of the Bombay High Court, the apex court said: ‘If every criticism or protest of the actions of the state is to be held as an offence under Section 153-A, democracy, which is an essential feature of the Constitution, will not survive.’

The court has made it clear that the right to dissent in a lawful manner is an integral part of the rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a). In December last year, the SC had upheld the Central Government’s 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370. However, voices of disapproval have not yet died down.

The professor’s case has brought under judicial and public scrutiny the controversial role of the police. Overzealous cops blew things out of proportion to demonise a dissenter. The court said the time had come to ‘enlighten and educate our police machinery’ about the concept of freedom of speech and expression and the extent of reasonable restraint on this freedom. The SC’s suggestion that police personnel must be sensitised to the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution needs to be given serious consideration. The registration of cases on flimsy grounds demonstrates police highhandedness; it is an undemocratic practice reeking of repression. It is hoped that this verdict will deter cops from branding citizens as anti-national or anti-social merely on the basis of their social media posts. Unless there is incitement to violence or hatred, such comments should not invite punitive action.

#Article 370 #Maharashtra #Supreme Court


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