Sunday, September 26, 2021

Right to criticise the Govt. is a Fundamental Right and not a Seditious Act: SC Judge

Addressing a lawyers’ workshop organised by a charitable trust in Ahmedabad, Justice Deepak Gupta clarified, “Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the armed forces cannot be termed sedition. If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.”

He said, “For me, there is a very important right which is not spelt out in the Constitution… the right of freedom of opinion, the right of freedom of conscience, by themselves, include the most important right ~ the right to dissent. Every society has its own rules, and over a period of time, when people stick to only age-old rules and conventions, the society degenerates; it doesn’t develop.”

He further said, “New thinkers are born when they disagree with well-accepted norms of the society. If everybody follows the well-trodden path, no new paths will be created and no new vistas of the mind will be found. If a person doesn’t ask questions and raise issues questioning age-old systems, no new systems will develop and horizons of the mind will not expand. …New thoughts and religious practices have developed only when they have questioned the old.”

What Justice Gupta is protesting here is the current Government’s casual hurling of the appellation, ‘anti-national’ to anyone who speaks against the Government on any front. The crux of his speech revolved around the point that as citizens, Indians have the right to criticise the Government, and criticism cannot be construed as sedition, right to speech being one of the fundamental rights in a democracy.

“If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.” Gupta said.

There have been a huge number of sedition cases slapped against many students and activists expressing anti-establishment views, over the past few years. In a recent incident, Safoora Zargar, a 21-weeks pregnant Jamia Millia Islamia student who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for her alleged involvement in the Delhi riots, has been denied bail for the third time.