Freedom of Expression and Maintenance of Public Order: Contemporary Issues and State Response
III JCLC (2015) 170
22 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2016
Date Written: 2015
We are living in troubled times, in a complex world a world where it is difficult to demarcate between the real and the virtual. If internet changed the world of communication, social media comprising of the social networking sites and the mobile messaging apps revolutionized not only the way we communicate but also the way we behave, virtually as well as in reality. With the media of expression expanding exponentially, the consequent impact on right to Freedom of expression is well expected. In the recent past, India has witnessed an increase in the culture thriving on mob mentality. Any expression offending the sensibilities of a group could trigger a frenzied mob vandalising art galleries/theatres/universities/news channel offices or private property of the alleged offender. Artists and authors are condemned for their creations which a handful might find objectionable or offending religious or cultural morality. Cinematographic films are censored, effigies of celebrities/artists burnt, galleries vandalised, literary works banned and authors are banished from their motherland. The vital issue here is the growing intolerance of public towards individuals exercising their legitimate right to express themselves and incapacity of state to protect them. The government has the tendency of succumbing to pressure from the mob and restraining individual liberty in the interest of “public order”. Such state action has ignited the debate on legitimacy of use of the ground of public order for restricting artists and individuals. In this paper the author broadly assesses the legitimacy of state action while claiming to balance individual freedom of expression and maintaining public order in the light of empirical data collected in the month of March-April 2014 by taking a sample of 331 subjects. The case of Salman Rushdie, Kamal Hasan, Palgarh incident, Azaad Maidan rioting are some incidents which the author discusses in detail.
Keywords: Free Speech, Intolerance, Public Order, Freedom of Expression, India
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