Defamation is the easiest method of abuse of right to freedom of speech and expression. It was for the first time that the defamation law was introduced in India by the British. The political bigwigs caught in violation of the law are smarting these days. They are up against a law introduced by the “colonial powers”. What was it that was not introduced by the colonial powers: the judicial system in India? Indians were not even conscious of the various offences they would routinely commit e.g. criminal intimidation, breach of trust or respect for contracts written or oral?
The law of criminal defamation is being challenged by three politicians: Subramaniam Swamy (Professor, Supreme Court Lawyer & former Union Minister of Law), Arvind Kejriwal (IIT product & incumbent Chief Minister of Delhi) and Rahul Gandhi (incumbent Vice President of the Congress Party). Not only these three persons but almost anybody who thinks something of himself seems to live in a world where freedom of speech is construed to mean the right to say whatever one might like to say without care for the loss of reputation, dignity or fame of the targeted person. This is such a norm of behavior here that one hardly becomes conscious about the indignity of defamation involved in irresponsible statements. Easiest thing is to criticize others. In politics, defamation of the rival is an effective weapon. Without realizing that it is criminal to defame someone, people freely indulge in cheap talk. So much so that 90% complaints against bureaucrats, police officers or judges are frivolous, bordering on defamation with a view to harm the career prospects and reputation of the person. Most complaints on official stationery of Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies are outright criminal defamation, motivated by service rivals and drafted by them. On inquiry, many are denied by the MP/MLA having ever written any such letter. This criminal activity has been going on because nobody has suffered punishment for such criminal activity. Now that these politicians have been hauled up to the court by their victims, they are calling the law itself a vestige of the colonial powers. If it is so it is better because the politician cannot enjoy absolute freedom to malign, vilify or defame anybody.
Fame is a very valuable liquid asset of a person. It is earned through hard work, sincere and honest work. It can’t be allowed to be damaged or ruined by anybody, elite or innocent, powerful or simpleton, politician or parliament, executive or judiciary, fourth estate or fifth column. That this needs to be drilled into the heads of the woodenheaded is evident from the fact that respect for the judiciary is a sine qua non for independence of the judiciary. The accused pronounced guilty of murder and ordered to be hanged is likely to make irresponsible statements against the judge. The law of contempt of court has been placed on the statute book only for this reason. Remove it from there, and not even one judgement will go unchallenged in the filthiest of terms. People have to be taught ethical values, etiquette, good manners, civility, respect for others rights and reputation, human values and dignity. For this, it is necessary to strictly implement the law of civil and criminal defamation. Reputations can’t be allowed to be marred. The best way to deter criminalization of politics is to ensure that criminal defamation is severely punished in the fastest mode so as to nip the evil in the bud itself
India needs more stringent laws to curb the tendencies of people in public life like Dr. Subramaniam Swamy or Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal, who neither respect it or its meaning. There are any number of politicians quick to defame and still threaten the target with impunity. They react when someone gives it back to them in their own language and then they resort to physical violence against the person or institution. They have made political fortunes by licentious indulgence in defamation. Nobody enjoys the right to defamation of others. It is no freedom of speech. It is criminal to do so. Defamation kills not only reputations but persons. Rahul has never faced such situations as he has a battalion of factotums to take care of his interests and those of his mother, sister, brother-in-law and their children and even Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Those not interested in studying the defamation law must at least read a short story titled “A Piece Of String” by Tolstoy. The court ought to rise to protect the fame of the citizen by deciding such cases in less than a week and punish the offenders, who get elected to legislatures and gain authority to destroy the Rule of Law in the country. All the three prominent persons have gone to the court challenging the legality of the criminal defamation law with the prayer to declare it illegal.
One politician and an applicant before the Supreme Court of India has taken a 360 degree turn on the demand for abrogation of the defamation law placed on the statute book by colonial powers by ordering its use in a manner that even the worst dictator would shudder to do. Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister, Delhi, has taken offence to the media for what he calls criticism of his government, himself, his ministers and officers and issued orders in writing to his administration to monitor all TV channels and file defamation cases wherever necessary.