THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 MAY 2019 (No apology, please (Indian Express))

No apology, please (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Freedom of expression
Mains level: Constitutional background

Context

  • 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.

Background

  • 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 pre-existing meme.
  • 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 liberal space.
  • 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.

Conclusion

Prelims Questions:

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

Ans: D
Mains Questions:

Q.1) The Supreme Court has always expanded the contours of free speech. Explain.

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