DUB Speak

Fifty shades of freedom of expression in India

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The Supreme Court recently struck down the controversial section 66A of the Information Technology Act on grounds of “vagueness and chilling effect on free speech”. The infamous section had been the centre of debate in many cases where the government and police authorities misused it to punish innocent advocates of free speech putting them through strenuous times.

The latest verdict in the Shreya Singhal vs Union of India case promises to pump new life into the nation’s legal system which entails that every individual shall have the “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship” in the Preamble to the Constitution. The instances of an Uttar Pradesh teenager getting booked for posting “objectionable” comments on Azam Khan and two Mumbai girls being arrested for expressing disapproval over the bandh after the death of Bal Thackeray have proved in the past how the ambiguous and ill-drafted law invaded the right to free speech.

Freedom of speech and expression is one of the basic pillars of any democracy which imparts the citizenry the right to critique but with some reasonable restrictions in the interests of sovereignty, integrity and security of the country, besides justified morality like the respect of all genders. These restrictions empower the state to book citizens for their statements or impose censorship citing Article 19(2) of the Constitution which allows certain restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression. These restrictions can be imposed under various Acts and Sections of the IPC. The ban on screening of the much hyped erotic drama- Fifty Shades of Grey, the AIB roast video that had to be taken down from the internet and the censorship over the screening of BBC’s documentary- India’s Daughter, are all instances of violation of the freedom of speech and expression.

Section 66A failed to pass the test of Article 19(2) and hence, came the Supreme Court’s judgement, at a very crucial time in India when censorship laws have become an instrument of abuse. The verdict is a wake-up call for all political elites in India and secures the atmosphere for freedom of discussion and debate on the internet.


Arushi Srivastava

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A final year B. Com Hons. student at Delhi College of Arts & Commerce. When asked to describe myself, I simply wonder what static thing to tell about me because I believe life is always a perpetual self exploring journey. I take as gospel the fact that books are written to be treasured, movies and tv series to be revered and entertain and music to be cherished for a blissful course to take delights in our lives. One can contact me at [email protected] or tweet @simply_arushi

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