- Censorship exists in India to such an extent that citizens face crisis of speech and expression. It is only because censorship is both easy and efficient to accomplish.
What is censorship?
- The suppression or control of ideas, public communication and information circulated within a society is termed as censorship.
- The freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution of India can be suppressed if it is considered objectionable, harmful, or necessary to maintain communal harmony.
- Even after 70 years after Independence, the freedom of speech still occupies a fragile and tenuous place in the Republic.
- This can be further explained in the light of two recent incidents:
- The first was the Jharkhand government’s decision to ban the book, “The Adivasi Will Not Dance”
- And the second was an order of a civil judge at Delhi’s Karkardooma Court, restraining the sale of new book on Baba Ramdev, titled “Godman to Tycoon”.
- These bans something important i.e. censorship exists in India to the extent it does because it is both easy and efficient to accomplish. This is for two allied reasons.
- Firstly, the Indian legal system is structured in a manner that achieving censorship through law is an almost costless enterprise for anyone inclined to try.
- Second, the only thing that could effectively counteract this is a strong, judicial commitment to free speech, at all levels of the judiciary, which does not exist.
- Together, these two elements create an environment in which the freedom of speech is in almost constant peril, with writers, artists, and publishers.
- It seems mandatory to repeal Sections 95 and 96, and stipulate that if indeed the government wants to ban a book, it must approach a court and demonstrate, with clear and cogent evidence, what laws have been broken that warrant a ban.
- A problem of public culture can only be addressed through continuing and unapologetic affirmation of free speech as a core, foundational, and non-negotiable value of our Republic and our Constitution.
Mediums of censorship in India:
- A classic example of censorship in India is the Central Board of Film Certification or Censor Board, which comes under the purview of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
- The Board regularly orders, directors to remove anything it deems offensive or subjects considered to be politically subversive.
- Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. However, it is not an absolute one.
- 19 (2) of the Constitution permits the State to impose reasonable restrictions on seven grounds, namely security of state, sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relationship with foreign countries, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, and defamation.
- Thus, the ban on a film is legally justifiable only on these seven grounds, and none else.
- Recent experience suggests that the CBFC does not always see itself as a certifying authority, but rather plays the role of censorship.
- The Bombay High Court had to remind the CBFC that certification is its primary role and that its power to order changes and cuts must be exercised in accordance with constitutional principles.
- Section 95 authorises State governments to forfeit copies of any newspaper, book, or document that appears to violate certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code, such as Section 124A (sedition), Sections 153A or B (communal or class disharmony), Section 292 (obscenity), or Section 295A (insulting religious beliefs).
- The key element of Section 95 is that it allows governments to ban publications without having to prove, before a court of law, that any law has been broken
- But under Section 96 of the CrPC, any person aggrieved by the government’s order has the right to challenge it before the high court of that State.
Consequences of theses bans:
- Such prohibitions adversely affect democracy and the free flow of information, of thoughts, of creativity, and of speech and expression.
- Unreasonable restrictions at the behest of community or religion deprive the majority of the people of their right to see, and to enjoy good literature and good art.
- Thus, while the sentiments of the few are taken into consideration, the rights of the many are being ignored.
- On the contrary this will arm the fringe groups with the power to take the law in their own hands, and to undermine the rule of law.
- Censorship can be a weapon in the hands of the State to make people agree with its ideology. For example:
- If a director or author wants to show the reality, he has to put it in a movie or a book and eventually the censor board removes it.