Criminalising defamation

Kashmir Times. Dated: 5/26/2014 11:21:53 PM

Dear Editor,
At the hearing of the defamation case filed by Nitin Gadkari against Arvind Kejriwal, the Metropolitan Magistrate sent Arvind to police custody after Arvind refused bail. The issue is being blown out of proportion by the two sides. The bond was for getting him bail and has got nothing to do with the merits of the case. Of course all this drama to refuse bail is aimed to get Kejriwal some publicity as he finds that now-a-day he is being ignored by the media and his name does not appear on the first page. The case will come up for hearing where he will have to provide evidence supporting his charge of dishonesty or apologise. In the meantime, he is hoping that there might be some political mileage to be gained by staying in prison and get public sympathy.
At the same time, peaceful protestors outside Tihar were manhandled and forcibly removed. This uncalled for action needs to be condemned.
One doesn’t quite know what evidence Kejriwal has in giving a list of corrupt men. But surely, he may not be quite off the mark in bringing to light the cases of "prosperous politicians". They indeed must be investigated. Simply defaming them and expecting no consequences defeats the campaign against corruption. India has a hierarchy of platforms which could have been adopted for the same. If you do not like the law, lobby to change it. If you do not like the judgment, go in appeal.
But more importantly, it is unfortunate that a democratic country has laws where an individual can get sent to jail simply for calling a prosperous politician corrupt. Whatever one's views on Arvind Kejriwal, his incarceration will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. The
Indian media, as is its won't, has chased the "lizard's tail" of Arvind refusing to post a bail bond, while missing out on the "lizard" viz a magistrate jailing an individual for what in more robust democracies passes off as fair comment about political leaders. No sensible country has criminal defamation anymore, where even fair comment makes you an "accused" who needs to be let out on 'bail' just because someone has the time and inclination to sue. This law needs to be done away with.
—Hardev Singh,



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