Monday, February 17, 2020

today's editorial

Permit dissent: Justice Chandrachud takes a compelling look at the heart of our dialogue-based democracy

February 17, 2020, 2:00 AM IST  in TOI Editorials | Edit PageIndia | TOI

As the chief guest of the 10th convocation of the Gujarat National Law University on Saturday, Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court had notable advice for the students: “It is important to stand up and be dissenters. It is only through your power of expressing views and courage of stating contrary positions that you will make others stop and think.” Coming at a time when student protests, such as those against CAA-NRC, have been labelled anti-national, Justice Chandrachud’s comments on Saturday both at the above event and at the Gujarat HC auditorium were a timely, lucid and powerful reminder of how the right to dissent is at the very heart of a dialogue-based democratic society.

Over the weekend disturbing video footage has also come to light, where police can be seen entering Jamia Millia Islamia’s library and lathicharging students who were just studying there. This is blatant abuse of state machinery to instil fear. And as Justice Chandrachud says, creating a chilling atmosphere for free speech really distracts from the constitutional vision of a free and pluralist society. Political detentions under PSA in Kashmir, sweeping use of Section 144 across Uttar Pradesh, repeated internet shutdowns in several parts of the country, broad spectrum use of the colonial sedition law … all these draconian attempts to quell peaceful protests are fundamentally at odds with the fact that “homogeneity is not the defining feature of Indianness.”

Plurality of opinion is furthermore the basis of all growth – political, economic, cultural and social. Only asking questions and challenging the status quo lead to change and progress. So respect for diversity and freedom of expression is not only the essence of Indian democracy, it is also the guarantor of a better future.

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