Is India turning intolerant to freedom of speech and expression?

At the award function of Advertising Association of India on Saturday I had listed paradoxes that rule our public discourse. One of them was right to freedom of speech and expression qua reasonable restrictions. When you consider this maxim within the overarching landscape of increasing instruments of information dissemination which are empowering people and juxtapose it on a society which is on a short fuse, you have a very potent hot mix. That is why as a societal milieu we need to find this golden mean whereby we have to accept right to freedom of speech and expression also includes the right to offend. But it must be accompanied by a robust legal remedy which people can access if their outrage at the offence is pervasive. Unfortunately, this balance is skewed. Therefore, you have this outpouring which spills onto streets.

What about the ban on the movie, Vishwaroopam, in Tamil Nadu?

I have been thinking very hard about implications of the controversy. The implications are ominous. The right of the states to enact laws under Entry 32 of the state list on theatres and dramatic performances and cinemas are clearly circumscribed by exclusive jurisdiction of the Union to certify films as being fit for exhibition. And if every state is going to start imposing its own restrictions, then it will have serious consequences on the essence of free speech. That is why my government has decided to revisit the statutory landscape and put in place a mechanism which ensures constitutional sanctity is upheld.

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