To safeguard and uphold the freedom of speech and expression in India, it is imperative to adequately reform colonial laws that curtail free speech. Discuss.

Article 19 of Part 3 of constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech & expression as a fundamental right, subject to certain safeguards.

Colonial laws that curtail free speech:

  • Sedition laws, under IPC vaguely defined offences like “attempt to incite hatred”, etc.
  • Official Secrets Acts, hinders genuine whistle-blowers at times.
  • Laws regarding contempt of court.

Need for reform:

  • Rising number of arrests on vague grounds such as ‘threat to law & order’.
  • Chilling effect on free speech & expression due to years of above laws.
  • Misuse by state authorities at times to curb genuine political dissent & criticism.
  • Weakens participative & constructive democracy through curbing constructive criticism.

Way forward:

  • Supreme court in the Kedarnath & Balwant Singh Mehta case recommended that genuine criticism should not be penalized.
  • Law commission report: Intention to disrupt public order should be penalized, rather than vague grounds.
  • International best practices should be followed like UK, Canada have done away with contempt laws.

India’s ratification of international covenant on civil and political rights, commits to preservation of free speech, reform of above laws is must for it.

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