India criminal defamation ruling fails to recognise threat Supreme Court reinforces status quo whereby ‘there are just some things you cannot say’A television journalist sets up his camera near the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Feb. 18, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
Hopes that India’s Supreme Court would strike down laws criminalising defamation were dashed last month when the Court, upholding the laws, opined: “‘Reputation’ of one cannot be allowed to be crucified at the altar of the other’s right of free speech.”
Rejecting claims that criminal defamation laws damage free speech, the Court refused to recognise the laws’ potential impact, saying that “it is extremely difficult to subscribe to the view that criminal defamation has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression”.
But in the opinion of many Indian journalists, that conclusion flies in the face of both experience and common sense.
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