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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.




Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

Procrastination (and Kumble vs Kohli)

This is the 39th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

Saffron is the New Red

This essay, which I co-wrote with Barun Mitra, was published in Pragati, the online magazine I edit, on June 21.…

Politics = Bribery

This essay, which I co-wrote with Kumar Anand, was published in Pragati, the online magazine I edit, on June 13.…

Wonder Woman, the God of War and Public Choice Economics

This essay, which I co-wrote with Kumar Anand, was published in Pragati, the online magazine I edit, on June 8.…

Legalise Prostitution to Fight Trafficking

This essay, which I co-wrote with Manasa Venkataraman, was published in Pragati, the online magazine I edit, on May 24.…

07 January, 2010

The Free Speech Cop-Out

The Times of India reports:

In a significant ruling, a three-judge bench of the Bombay high court has held that in India criticism of any religion is permissible under the fundamental right of freedom of speech, be it Islam, Hinduism, Christianity or any other religion, and a book cannot be banned for that reason alone. But the criticism must be bona fide or academic, said the court as it upheld a ban issued in 2007 by the Maharashtra government on a book titled Islam—A Concept of Political World Invasion by Muslims.

Aah, that first line sounds so nice, gives so much hope. And then the second one makes it meaningless. Why should only “bona fide or academic” criticism be allowed? Who decides if a particular critique is “bona fide or academic”? The judges there paid lip service to free speech—and in the very next sentence, added caveats that took the ‘free’ out of it.

It could be argued, of course, that the bench merely followed a precedent already set by the framers of our constitution. They too, in Article 19 (1) (a), paid lip service to free speech. And in article 19 (2), allowed restraints on it on grounds such as “public order” and “decency and morality” that are open to interpretation, and make it easy for those in power to stifle free expression. Such it goes.

Also read: Don’t Insult Pasta.

Posted by Amit Varma in Freedom | India | News | WTF

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