Speaking at the inaugural Soli J Sorabjee Excellence Award and Scholarship and Inaugural Memorial Lecture, Justice Nageswara Rao said on Wednesday that the Supreme Court of India, through all its judgments relating to human rights and freedom of speech, protected freedom of speech so that every individual should have the opportunity to discuss issues openly. Judge Rao was talking…
Speaking at the inaugural Soli J Sorabjee Excellence Award and Scholarship and Inaugural Memorial Lecture, Justice Nageswara Rao said on Wednesday that the Supreme Court of India, through all its judgments relating to human rights and freedom of expression, has protected freedom of expression so that every individual should have the opportunity to discuss issues openly.
Justice Rao was speaking on “The Role of the Supreme Court of India in Expanding the Scope of Fundamental Rights”.
Quoting a quote from Louis Brandeis that said “inert people are a threat to democracy”, Judge Rao said that only with public debate do you grow as an individual, your intellectual capacity will develop and there will be an awareness.
While stressing the importance of the theory of the market of ideas, Judge Rao declared that, in this country, if the truth must come out, it can only be through discussion.
“The truth must fight against the lie. Unless there are public discussions and debates, unless people are aware of political rights, there would be no democracy worthy of its name,” said Judge Rao.
Judge Rao said that fundamental rights are fundamental rights, which were not invented by the Constitution, they were already there. These are inalienable, transcendental rights, which are not absolute and there may be restrictions on these rights.
Regarding the fundamental right to freedom of speech, Justice Rao said the Supreme Court has often dealt with cases filed against individuals on the grounds that their speech has resulted in sedition or encouraged hatred.
He said that as there are comments made by citizens against the government, every time something is said against the establishment, you would see that there is a reaction from the establishment. and that they don’t take criticism appropriately.
“Section 124 A was challenged in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates the fundamental right of speech, the court refused to declare it unconstitutional, but said that any speech against government policy cannot be qualified as seditious speech”, said Judge Rao.
Speaking about the “hate speech” aspect, Judge Rao said that the way one categorizes a speech as hate speech is the issue that has captured the attention of the courts.
“Assuming I criticize the leader of a group, would that be hate speech? If I incite a group to take up arms, that may be hate speech, but it depends on the facts,”he said.
He pointed out that when the Law Commission’s assistance was sought by the Supreme Court in the criminalization of hate speech case, the Commission said that not all speech could be qualified as hate speech. And hate speech, on the other hand, does not necessarily have to be limited to leading to violence. It can also be stopped if, even without a tendency to lead to criminal acts, it drives a wedge between groups, religions, etc.
“There is no problem with discussion and advocacy, the problem arises when there is incitement. So the test was when something restricted discussion and advocacy, that could not be grounds for restrict freedom of expression and only when it was an incitement to commit violence could it be said to amount to a violation of freedom of expression,” he said.
Regarding freedom of expression, Judge Rao highlighted another aspect that caught the court’s attention: the action of the executive in interfering with social media, shutting down the Internet.
He added that a reason given for shutting down the internet in the interest of the public and law and order has been dealt with by the courts.
He shared two such internet shutdown cases that have come to court, including the internet shutdown in Kashmir and Assam.
“With increasing computerization and the age of the internet, freedom of expression has been in court in myriad ways”said Judge Rao.
Referring to cultural and religious diversity in India, Justice Rao said the country is doing so well because we believe in unity in diversity, and the government has a duty to ensure that social justice , economic and political be returned to all citizens, in accordance with the guidelines. in the Guiding Principles of State Policy.
“Article 14 has two parts: it protects the rights of persons with regard to equality before the law and the second aspect is the equal protection of the laws. Equality before the law means that no one is Above the Law The Supreme Court has reminded the citizens of this country of what Thomas Fuller said ‘Never be so high, the law is above you'”he underlined.
“We have 70% of the national income in 10% of the population and the gap between the rich and the poor is so wide. The principle that must be followed to raise them is to grant them certain concessions which have been codified”,he said.
Regarding the fundamental right to dignity of a citizen, Judge Rao said that every citizen has the right to claim human dignity which must be protected, and dignity derives from the right to food which has made l object of the Supreme Court. In addition, there is also a right to housing, livelihood, education and health. The Supreme Court has expanded the scope of Article 21 to cover the right to food, the right to housing, the right to livelihood and the right to education.
“With these progressive ideas in mind, the Supreme Court has strengthened fundamental rights. I am sure that fundamental rights which are fundamental rights will be protected by strengthening the scope of Part III of the Constitution of India,” said Judge Rao in concluding his conference.