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May 13, 2010

Politicians suffering from foot-in mouth disease

IT SEEMS that Indian politicians are suffering from foot-in-mouth disease. They need to realize that using abusive remarks are embarrassing not only to their party, also government and countryman. Our political class has never had it so awful; they have made it worse for themselves. Surprisingly, their respective parties are giving exemption to them while these hasty comments are now being subjected to public question.

There comments reflect their mindset. It is all due to the deterioration of political principles in this country. How can they expect people to respect them when they are making irresponsible and immature comments? It is the media, which is exposing their wrongdoings. There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.

It is unfortunate that a senior BJP leader courted a major controversy by making abusive remarks against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD Lalu Prasad in a public meeting without any second thoughts and in the very next moment he decided to take his words back.

This is not a single instance, even during the parliament session our so called representatives of people are using unparliamentary language and later refuting the same when confronted by party and the media ? Or this is only way to abuse opposition leaders?

In my views, politician who indulges in irresponsible remarks should be punished. Before entering the parliament, our politician must attend ‘One Week Workshop for Effective Public Speaking’. It may be boring for them or they may find strange here politicians subjecting to the week long of Public Speaking training but Politicians in west always went through this kind of programme.

May 06, 2010

‘I have a right to speak’


The latest judgment of the Supreme Court of India quashing the criminal proceedings against actor Kushboo for her remarks on pre-marital sex will go down in legal history for the high values it protects.

“We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.”

John Stuart Mill





A century-and-a-half ago, John Stuart Mill voiced his concern for free speech. The Supreme Court in Kushboo’s case has endorsed these ideals. Ms Kushboo’s case is a tribute to one of the most sacrosanct rights of a democracy and to a vibrant dynamic society. The Supreme Court judgment reaffirms our faith in liberty: liberty of ideas; liberty of speech and expression; liberty of opinion; liberty of divergence; liberty of dissension, and liberty of circulation. Benjamin Franklin said: “When men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public.” It gives a blow to the power-hungry, aggressive sections of society who claim to be the defenders of faith. Are we a closeted society where even the mention of the word sex raises eyebrows? Sex is not synonymous with obscenity or indecency. In Udeshi’s case in 1965, Justice Hidayatullah held: “Sex and obscenity are not always synonymous and it is wrong to classify sex as essentially obscene or even indecent or immoral.” Oddly enough, although many may think the judgment is an endorsement of deviant behaviour, it is not. Ms Kushboo did not advocate premarital sex or live in relationship. She only advocated that society should not be hypocritical and pretend that this does not happen. She advocated health safety measures where it did happen and voiced her concern.

What the Supreme Court of India’s latest judgment does uphold is:

1. Obscenity should be gauged with respect to contemporary community standards that reflect the sensibilities as well as the tolerance levels of an average reasonable person.

2. Although the survey on which Ms Kushboo was invited to comment, was not a literary work, it was published in a news magazine, thereby serving the purpose of communicating certain ideas and opinions on the above-mentioned subject. The survey touched numerous aspects relating to sexual habits of people in big cities.

3. The statements were not defamatory. Ms Kushboo’s statement published in India Today (in September 2005) is “a rather general endorsement of premarital sex and her remarks are not directed at any individual or even at a ‘company or an association or collection of persons’.” It is difficult to fathom how her views can be construed as an attack on the reputation of anyone in particular.

4. There was no intention on Ms Kushboo’s part to hurt anyone’s sentiments. There was neither any intent to cause harm to the reputation of people nor any actual harm done to their reputation.

5. The impugned complaints were made by complainants associated with a political party being PMK, which is active in the State of Tamil Nadu. This adds weight to the suggestion that complaints were made to gain undue political mileage.

6. There was no specific legal injury caused to any of the complainants since the appellant’s remarks were not directed at any individual or a readily identifiable group of people.

7. The complaints made were frivolous in nature since the comments did not injure anyone in particular.

8. The institution of the numerous complaints against Ms Kushboo was done in a malafide manner. In order to prevent the abuse of the criminal law machinery the complaints were quashed. In such cases, the proper course for magistrates is to use their statutory powers to direct an investigation into the allegations before taking cognizance of the offences alleged. It is not the task of the criminal law to punish individuals merely for expressing unpopular views. The threshold for placing reasonable restrictions on the “freedom of speech and expression” is indeed a very high one and there should be a presumption in favour of the accused in such cases. It is only when the complainants produce materials that support a prima facie case for a statutory offence that magistrates can proceed to take cognisance of the same.

9. One must be mindful that the initiation of a criminal trial is a process that carries an implicit degree of coercion and it should not be triggered by false and frivolous complaints, amounting to harassment and humiliation to the accused.

When we will turn the pages of history, this judgment of Justice B.S. Chauhan for the three Judge Bench will stand out for the high values it protects, which are integral to democracy and civil society.

May 03, 2010

Pre-marital sex not a statutory offence: SC

The Supreme Court has held that pre-marital sex is not a statutory offence and criminal law cannot punish individuals merely for expressing "unpopular views" justifying such acts as it would violate freedom of speech and expression."While it is true that the mainstream view in our society is that sexual contact should take place only between marital partners, there is no statutory offence that takes place when adults willingly engage in sexual relations outside the maritial setting, with the exception of 'adultery' as defined under Section 497 IPC," the apex court said in a judgement.A three judge bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishna and justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan passed the judgement while quashing the criminal cases filed against popular south Indian actress Khushboo for her views on "pre-maritial sex"."It is not the task of the criminal law to punish individual merely for expressing unpopular views. The threshold for placing reasonable restrictions on the 'freedom of speech and expression' is indeed a very high one and there should be a presumption in favour of the accused in such cases."It is only when the complainants produce materials that support a prima facie case for statutory offence that magistrates can proceed to take cognizance of the same. We must be mindful that the initiation of a criminal trial is a process which carries an implicit degree of coercion and it should not be triggered by false and frivolous complaints amounting to harassment and humiliation to the accused," the court said.

Writing the judgement, Justice Chauhan said the complaints against the actress were instituted with a malafide by office bearers of PMK party and "in order to prevent the abuse of the criminal law machinery", the same has to be quashed.Asserting that Khushboo's statement was not obscene or harmed the reputation, the bench said, "the appellant's statement published in 'India Today' is a rather general endorsement of pre-marital sex and her remarks are not directed at any individual or event at a 'company' or an association or collection of persons."It said the statements did not invite any case for defamation as defined under Section 499 of IPC."The appellant's statement published in 'India Today' (in September 2005) is a rather general endorsement of pre-marital sex and her remarks are not directed at any individual or even at a company or an association or collection of person," the apex court observed.The apex court said that though Khushboo's remarks provoked a controversy, there must be a culture of open dialogue when it comes to societal attitudes on issues like pre-marital sex and live-in relationship.

"While there can be no doubt that in India, marriage is an important social institution. We must also keep our minds open to the fact that there are certain individuals or groups who do not hold the same view."To be sure, there are some indigenous groups within our society wherein sexual relations outside the marital setting are accepted as a normal occurrence. Even in the societal mainstream, there are a significant number of people who see nothing wrong in engaging in pre-marital sex," it said.The court observed that notions of social morality are inherently subjective and the criminal law cannot be used as means to unduly interfere with the domain of personal autonomy."Morality and criminality are not co-extensive. In the present case, the substance of the controversy does not really touch on whether pre-marital sex socially acceptable, instead the real issue of concern is the disproportionate response to the appellant's remarks," it said.

If the complainants had any grievances against the actress, they should have contested the same through the media and not by filing criminal complaints, the court said.Rejecting the argument that her views endorsing pre-marital sex misguided young people, Justice Chauhan said, "All that the appellant did was to urge the societal acceptance of the increasing instances of pre-marital sex when both partners are committed to each other. This cannot be construed as an open endorsement of sexual activities of all kinds."If it were to be considered so, the criminal law machinery would have to take on the unenforceable task of punishing all writers, journalists or other such persons for merely referring to any matter connected with sex in published materials."The court further said that for the sake of argument, even if it were to be assumed that the appellant's statements could encourage some people to engage in pre-marital sex, no legal injury has been shown since the latter is not an offence.