To(377)B or not to be

This post was originally written by me for a group blog I co-own named The Jalebi Chronicles.Check it out, it has some really good stuff.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed uproar due to the shocking judgement passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of India a little more than a month ago. I am referring to the black day of 11th December, 2013 when in a move that shocked the nation and the world at large, a division bench headed by the now retired Justice Singhvi decided to overrule a Delhi High Court judgement that had struck down section 377B of the Indian Penal Code which reads:

“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.”

In essence, it was a section inserted to soothe the attitude of an archaic society that has long since ceased to exist in 19th century itself, in an age and time when the concepts of right and wrong were a farfetched dream for the citizens of any colonised nation. Let’s return to modern day India. Courtesy some liberal judicial interpretations of the constitutionally sanctioned Fundamental Rights, we have numerous rights (rights which are not stated explicitly in the Constitution but are more inferred,) including the right to privacy. What section 377 B means is an absolute invasion of that right. Going by the logic of the section, if two people have consensual sex against the ‘order of nature’ in a private room and someone peers through the keyhole and lodges a complaint, they’ll be arrested. The state, in its moral stride has essentially decreed that all sexual acts except consensual peno-vaginal sex between two adults is illegal.

If we are to analyze the judgment, some factors stand out. One of the reasons offered by the Supreme Court to uphold section 377 B’s constitutional validity is that it targets acts rather than people, and thus is uniformly applicable to all citizens. What they fail to recognize here is that these “acts” which they seek to criminalize are inexorably linked to the sexuality of the LGBT community, whose rights are clearly being violated by the same logic. But again, a disgusting choice of words is seen in paragraph 52 of the judgment, which reads, “In its anxiety to protect the so-called rights of LGBT persons…” The degrading of the community and its rights just because of its existence as a minority is shocking. Furthermore, the court also maintains that the insertion of the section forming the basis of harassment and blackmail only warrants for an amendment to the law by the legislature and does not make the section ultra vires. To cap it off, the judgment laid forth a political challenge of sorts when it suggested that an alternative could be an act by the legislature to delete the section in contention.

I refuse to dwell on the ramifications that this decision will hold for the future of politics in our country. All I will say is that I am shocked; shocked and disappointed. The upholder of the nation’s fundamental rights has failed the nation. In an ironic maneuver, a judgment has turned citizens into criminals. Protest all you will, but the truth of the matter is this: at the bottom of all our hearts, we will be left with just one painful thought, and this will be the collective ideology of us all: “On 11th December 2013, the Indian Judiciary failed its duties and principles. It failed its philosophy… It failed you and me. But above all, it failed itself.

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Section 66A,the mystery of Indian Internet Governance- A QnA with Saikat Datta

The all round criticism and outcry at Indian Online Governance and the controversial Section 66A of the IT Act need no introduction.But, as a blogger, I thought it to be prudent to hear about it from someone who is mainstream and affected by it. Presenting Saikat Datta,Bureau Chief,DNA New Delhi. As an active twitter user(@saikatd) and an important figure in the media, I thought he is the perfect person to talk to about this.Here’s the QnA

1.As a prominent member of the fourth pillar of Democracy, what’s your definition of free speech?What does “freedom of expression” constitute in your dictionary?

Freedom of speech means the freedom to anything is permissible under Indian laws and also tolerance for all views. The lack of any form of censorship, subtle or overt is abominable.

2.The very vaguely worded Section 66A has caused a lot of controversy pertaining to freedom of expression on the Internet.Being an active Twitter user, what are your views on it?

There is no need for such a section. There are adequate laws in force. The Constitution sought to enshrine fundamental rights. Our laws are now creating a situation where we have fundamental restrictions now.

3.In today’s India, where the media,social activists and citizens are leading a revolution, where does freelance blogging figure?

I am not sure there is a “revolution” yet, but there is definitely a greater democratisation of news and information. This will ensure that there is a greater freedom of expression and more accessibility to information and its dissemination.

4.The media, on multiple counts has been accused of being biased or “stooges of political parties”. How do you answer them?

There could be some truth is the media subscribing to some political ideology. Or even the establishment. But this has to be understood in a context. Are the people ready to pay for the news they seek? Unless and until you pay for news, how will news be free from commercial or political pressure?

8.Some advice to budding journalists or media personnel

I would say budding journalists should try and spend time learning and perfecting their craft. This is a fascinating profession where constant learning is a challenge and a source of unending joy. Finally, specialise.

9.Lastly, a word to The Standing Coin readers
Welcome to journalism. It always needs a few good women and men

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Don’t Fight, Freedom is our Right!

NOTE: This article was written by me for the newspaper Education Times (http://www.myeducationtimes.com/article/79/201208132012081314113447424da4e33/Don%E2%80%99t-fight-freedom-is-our-right-.html)while I Interned there. Here is the link to the PDF of the actual newspaper article(http://www.4shared.com/office/qcuYiRmz/TOIM_2012_8_13_31.html)

Freedom itself is a liberalised term. As a soon to turn adult, it’s truly an honour to be a citizen of the Republic of India.  Democracy, in its essence is based on the expression of liberation by its citizens. Our constitution makers, inspired by this, gave us the Right to Freedom, which truly is a legacy we cherish. Nearly 62 years since its inception, liberty now runs through our veins. May it be a free expression of our opinion, a peaceful candle march against corruption, the ability to pick our choice of pencil or our choice of politician; we can legally do all of it. Sure many attempts at suppression have risen, but our judiciary has always quelled the situation. In recent times, the new IT rules proposed have drawn the ire of many legal experts as its terms blatantly violate our fundamental rights. I sure agree with them! No one messes with my rights!
As a young Indian, the ability to speak my mind, express my appreciation or more than often, my criticism, knowing that I am well within my rights to do so, is a matter of great joy. However, it still is a small ruby in a pile of diamonds. Unlike popular belief, freedom to us is not just limited to being our self. The knowledge that we can freely live our lives without the threat of unlawful conviction coupled with the unique perk of free and compulsory education (recently brought into effect by the Right to Education Act) from the age of 6 to 14 years, too factors in our umbrella of independence.
 Often, I arrogantly questioned some of the government’s seemingly absurd acts such as the different set of laws in Kashmir and the need for passes to enter Nagaland, on the pointless basis that such measures took away many of our promised rights. But, when I realized their necessity and simple brilliance, I was humbled. Our forefathers guaranteed us our rights but ensured that, freedom never took precedent over law, order and most importantly peace. I acknowledge that independence is never restricted. Well not unreasonably anyway. For e.g. when I’m told to not drive before 18, I never consider it as curtailment of my freedom. Rather, I realise it to be a supplement to my right to a protected life.
My freedom is mine to choose and define. It always was, always shall be. But when it’s constitutionally my right, I can’t help perform a small jig of thanks every morning. Many people I know moan about how India has still not matured in terms of freedom. I simply tell them this: “Read Part III of the Constitution and ingrain it in your head because legally, we are one of the most privileged citizens in the world for nearly 62 years! If that’s not mature, then nothing else is.”

Education Times,14th August 2012,Front Page

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