Free speech proponents have a strong case against recent actions of the Indian state. Leftist lion Manoj Mitta explains the problems when a non-cognizable offense is changed to cognizable by CYA politicians. He also has a list of (free speech) martyrs.
For, it was the standing committee on information technology, which had in its 2007 report, recommended that the 2006 bill be made more stringent. As for Section 66A, the committee specifically said that the crime of sending offensive messages should be turned “cognizable”. Meaning, it should be treated as a crime on which the police could register a case and arrest the accused persons. This was a far cry from the government`s original conception of Section 66A as a non-cognizable offense, which could have been applied only by a judicial magistrate.
This travesty of legislative process should serve as a cautionary tale. Rarely do we come across instances of bad laws having repercussions as dramatic as those of Section 66A. The political class suddenly seems to have found a weapon in Section 66A to muzzle dissent. A lecturer is arrested in Kolkata for emailing to his friends a cartoon on Mamata Banerjee, a businessman is arrested in Puducherry for tweeting against P Chidambaram`s son, a cartoonist is arrested in Mumbai for his anti-corruption campaign. And then of course came the arrest of the two girls near Mumbai to placate Shiv Sena goons. The systemic problem laid bare by this rash of arrests however goes beyond the reform demanded by civil society for institutionalizing pre-legislative consultation.
Manoj-garu is certainly right in focusing on problems at the India level, but also needs to focus on the danger posed by free-speech extremists at the global level (it is an interconnected world after all).
If OIC directives are accepted by the UN (and as they are often repeated here on BP) references to some historical personalities “hurtfully” will run afoul of the law (this will apply for example if an Ahmedi says that they do not subscribe to the “last prophet” clause). And just as the US (failed) effort to extradite Garry McKinnon shows, anyone using internet in the UK (as an example) can be up for prosecution in USA.
If dissent is not protected then the deprived people (for example Dalits) will suffer the most. The people who are (today) comfortable wielding the sword of majority tyranny will for sure face the sharp edge of the same sword sooner or later (at least one can hope).