No apology, please (Indian Express)
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Freedom of expression
Mains level: Constitutional background
- The Supreme Court vacation bench has granted bail to Priyanka Sharma of
the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in West Bengal.
- This was scrupulously correct, because bail is a right except in special
circumstances, where the accused is deemed to be likely to misuse her
freedom to interfere with the course of justice.
- Initially, the bail granted was conditional upon Sharma tendering an
immediate apology for sharing a bizarre meme online, showing West Bengal
chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
- The final order was softened to restore Sharma’s liberty without a
pre-condition, but it required her to apologise after being set free.
Problem with such conditions
- This rider was deeply problematic on multiple counts.
- First, the court appears to have asked for an apology because the post
was made by a political worker during elections, though situational matters
generally do not concern the process of justice.
- What is deemed to be just today should be deemed so for all time.
- Second, Sharma’s counsel has argued that she had only re-posted a
- The judicial remand of Sharma for 14 days was a travesty of justice,
especially by a government that, ironically, claims to be pushing for a more
- The judicial action, without doubt, was out of proportion with the act
of forwarding a meme, and the demand for an apology by the highest court, as
a condition following her release,
heaps insult upon injury.
- Third, while the court is correct in observing a principle of natural
justice, which requires a balance in the rights of individuals, Sharma’s
alleged transgression cannot have been probed sufficiently in a single
hearing. Indeed, the order states: “The questions raised are kept open.”
- To require her to apologise when her transgression has not been
sufficiently established militates against natural justice.
Setting a Dangerous Precedent
- Though the order states that “it shall not operate as a precedent”, if
the need for an apology is eventually upheld, the effects would be
catastrophic, for all satire is political in nature and intent.
- Cartoonists would have to publicly repent every morning, shortly after
newspapers land on the doorsteps of readers. Stand-up comics could apologise
in the evenings, after the show.
- Theatre and cinema producers and directors dealing in political issues
(and what is drama if it is not political?) would have to send pre-emptive
apologies to the powers that be before their shows opened.
- And satire would be declared dead on arrival.
- The meme shared by Sharma was merely bizarre, even if it involved a
- If producers of real political satire could be prosecuted until they
apologised, it would be the death of free speech.
Q.1) Consider the following statements:
1. Chairman of Rajya Sabha cannot cast a vote in the house.
2. The resolution for the removal of the Vice-President can be introduced in
either House of the Parliament.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) The Supreme Court has always expanded the contours of free speech. Explain.
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