A Candle in the Dark

A look on science, politics, religion and events

The freedom to hurt sentiments

with one comment

Dr Abinandanan at the Nanopolitan blog recently highlighted two brilliant verdicts which upheld the principles of freedom of expression and free speech.

However, I was slightly saddened to read a story today on the arrest of a software engineer for posting ‘vulgar’ comments about Sonia Gandhi on an orkut community.

One held for posting obscene Orkut message on Sonia

The cyber cell of the city police crime branch has arrested Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid, an IT professional of Gurgaon, Haryana, for allegedly uploading obscene and derogatory text about Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on Orkut.

Congress activist Amol Bhokare of Pune, who saw the message, lodged a complaint at the Deccan Gymkhana police in December, 2007. Vaid was found guilty under section 67 of the IT Act.

First of all, I must point out that I have absolutely no idea about the content of his actual post. If he posted any message that threatened actual physical violence, then he deserves to be in jail.

However, (and this is speculation on my part, so skip this para if you want), if the content of the post was merely using foul or ‘vulgar’ language to express his opinion, then I strongly disagree with the decision to arrest him. One of the fundamental rights one expects in a democracy is the freedom to criticize any political leader without fear of reprimand. Most sane people already know that whatever Mr Vaid said was probably stupid and not true; indeed Mr Vaid’s posts were probably extremely ill thought out. But, what really matters is that parodies or criticism of politicians or respected national figures, either dead or alive, seems to be censored with great relish in India.

This leads to another issue which comes up with astonishing frequency, and that’s when the religious/moral/national sentiments are hurt. Did something which was printed hurt your beliefs in anyway? Too bad, learn to look away and ignore it.

Freedom of expression isn’t an ideal which permits ideas and concepts only as long as they conform to the general public opinion, but it means that *any* idea or opinion is permissible, irrespective of how silly, stupid or radical it is, as long as it doesn’t directly threaten physical harm. If your beliefs are fragile enough to be offended by whatever another person says to such an extent that you see it fit to censor that person, you’d be better off taking a deep look at if it’s really worth believing in the first place.

By the way, the actual section 67 of the IT act he was booked under?

67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form. – Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeal to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

I wouldn’t be surprised if every other bollywood film director was booked under the act.


Written by parseval

May 21, 2008 at 1:21 am

Posted in politics, rant

One Response

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  1. […] religious, will you ban people from eating them? If you’re offended that someone eats cows, then too bad. Religious beliefs cannot be used as a factor in a rational-legal judicial […]

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