Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one's own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. The freedom of speech is regarded as the first condition of liberty. Accepted that the right to freedom of speech is the essence of free society and it must be safeguarded at all time. Liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance, and especially without fear of punishment plays significant role in the development of that particular society and ultimately for that state. The freedom of expression includes all forms of art including cartoon, media-print and electronic etc.. The freedom of speech and expression do not confer an absolute right to express one's thoughts freely. Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution enables the legislature to impose certain restrictions on free speech such as security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation, incitement to an offence, and sovereignty and integrity of India. Freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed not only by the constitution or statutes of various states but also by various international conventions like Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European convention on Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights etc. However, recent time has witnessed a numbers of misuses of the freedom as well as the reasonable restrictions by vested interest to suit their interest. People who do division/religion/caste based politics have caused the greatest harm by speaking. Common wisdom on the notion of freedom of speech and expression is that we are free to say or express anything we want as long as our speech/expression does not impinge upon the ‘fundamental freedoms’ of others. The idea is that one’s freedom of speech or expression must not cause ‘harm’ to others. This sort of reasoning leaves much unresolved, because in reality the problem of deciding what counts as ‘fundamental freedoms’ or ‘harm’ is not so simple. India, being a democratic country provides in the Constitution freedom of speech and expression. But we must remember that every right has a corresponding responsibility and no right is absolute. Freedom of expression has four broad purposes to serve:-
1. It helps an individual to attain self-fulfilment
2. It assists in the discovery of truth
3. It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision making 4. It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change
Ambedkar controversial cartoon: In the recent period, there have been lot of debates and heated exchanges in the academic as well as political circles over the issue of a cartoon of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar (well known for stewarding the drafting of the Indian constitution and one who radically articulated and fought for Dalith social and political rights) in the Standard XI NCERT political science textbook. The said cartoon which has been used in the textbook since 2006 and had largely remained unnoticed, until Thirumavalavan, leader of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (a small petty bourgeois party from Tamil Nadu) and Ramdas Athavale of the Republican Party of India (Athavale) raised the issue in the parliament, demanding its immediate ban. Almost overnight, all the political parties of every hue and colour jumped on the bandwagon to not only to ban the said cartoon on Dr. Ambedkar, but a demand for removal of all cartoons in the NCERT textbooks. The cartoon by the political cartoonist – Shankar Pillai, itself generated no controversy at the time it was published more than 60 years ago. Authors of the NCERT textbook have argued that the cartoon was merely trying to depict the times that India was living in soon after independence. The entire episode can only be interpreted as a gross political interference in...
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