Freedom of Speech: How Much is Too Much?

This Blog has been written by Saachi Dudeja. She is a student of DAV Public school, Gurugram.

There are so many people who are victims of online shaming. Quite undoubtedly the situation takes an ugly turn when netizens just pass their verdicts instead of expressing opinions. One is innocent until proven guilty. There is no denial about the fact that social media has made it easier for us to express our thoughts which often includes defaming, trolling, and abusing a person to an unimaginable extent. Now the question here is that why do we have so much liberty to mindlessly type out everything we want without even giving a thought to the repercussions.

What is freedom of speech and expression?

Let’s just understand what is ‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’? According to Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution, all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression.

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. But if this was the case then false advertisements would be legal, the press would be allowed to print the
formulas of nerve gas and atomic bombs,it would be legal to say that cancer has a cure and then sell bottles of arsenic pills. No complaints would be entertained on the pretext that there is absolute freedom of speech and expression. That is why constitution lays down restrictions
on this right. Any act of expression or speech which falls under Article 19(2) is not protected by Article 19(1)(a)

WHY ISN’T ABSOLUTE FREEDOM FAVOURABLE?

Free expression is so basic and fundamental that it hardly needs any defense. Quite contrary to the above stated popular opinion, I firmly believe that freedom of speech and expression should never be absolute. In the words of Lord Acton,” absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Man will probably never understand the limitations associated with freedom unless he is led to understand that freedom is not absolute. Such restrictions are indispensable otherwise people will go on saying everything they want which might prove ruinous especially in a markedly heterogeneous country like ours.

The Supreme Court has recently interpreted in Prashant Bhusan’s case and explained its stand on the freedom of speech and expression.

ONLINE ABUSING

Women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ people are often targeted online. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey revealed that a “wide cross-section” of Americans experience online abuse, but that the majority was directed towards minorities, with a quarter of black Americans saying they
have been attacked online due to race or ethnicity. Ten percent of Hispanics and 3% of whites reported the same.

Most of the time this abuse goes unpunished and a lot of stories are
buried inside. A tragic number of them are taking their own lives because they have been subjected to some sort of cruelty and also because the society deems them as unacceptable. This is another example which portrays how people misuse their right to free speech and they
often fail to comprehend how devastating their words could be.

HATE SPEECHES

Free Speech also permits one to come up with hate speeches which can also instigate people to commit offense. Political leaders are no less. Raj Thakarey, known for strident anti-migrant stand, has launched violent agitations targeting North Indians in the past and blaming them for
snatching away jobs from the local Marathi-speaking youth. Leaders tend to speak whatever they want to under the guise of freedom of speech. It’s totally unjustified on Raj Thakarey’s part to demean any community and spit venoms against it.

CONCLUSION

Keeping the above arguments in mind it can be rightly said that unbridled power to speak is a bane rather than a boon. That is why it is imperative for the state to allow free speech to the extent where words do not work for maligning others or inciting people. Limitations to this right do not snatch away society’s basic rights but protect all other rights (such as right to life,
privacy, security, etc.) that are endangered due to the excessive power of speech.

FREEDOM IS CRUCIAL AND SO IS THE RESPONSIBILITY THAT COMES WITH IT

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