unfreedom-of-pressie

Context: The J&K police booked a photographer in Kashmir under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly “anti-national” posts on social media. 

  • An FIR has also been registered against a report from Kashmir in The Hindu, alleging that it was “fake news”. 

National Crimes Research Bureau Data: According to data, there has been a steady rise in the number of sedition cases from 2014 (47 cases) to 2018 (70 cases) — and there have been only four convictions in that time, giving credence to the perception that the law is being misused to curb fundamental freedoms.

Supreme Court Judgments on Freedom of Speech

  • In January, ruling on the blocking of the internet in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, the Supreme Court laid down that access to the internet, and the speech therein, are fundamental rights protected under Article 19 of the Constitution
  • In Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar (1962), the Supreme Court ruled that criticisms of the government, even the state itself, do not constitute sedition or an act seen as detrimental to the security and integrity of the Union. 
  • In Balwant Singh v State of Punjab (1995) it found that even sloganeering that seemingly supports separatism — in this case, “Khalistan Zindabad” – as long is it does not directly incite people to commit violence against the Indian state, falls within the bounds of free speech. 

What is Article 19?

Right to Freedom (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc)

(1) All citizens shall have the right

(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

(c) to form associations or unions;

(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;

(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;  

(f) omitted

(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

Restrictions on Right to Freedom

  • The law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

 

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 

  • UAPA is India’s principal federal counterterrorism law.
  • The UAPA – an upgrade on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act TADA, which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed in 2004 — was originally passed in 1967 under the then Congress government led by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
  • Till 2004, “unlawful" activities referred to actions related to secession and cession of territory. Following the 2004 amendment, “terrorist act" was added to the list of offences.
  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA), also passed in 2019, allows an National Investigation Agency officer to conduct raids, and seize properties that are suspected to be linked to terrorist activities without taking prior permission of the Director General of Police of a state. 
    • The investigating officer only requires sanction from the Director General of NIA.

Source: Indian Express

Image Source: The Hindu