Weaponization of IPC to set police on journalists cuts across parties — and clamps down on press freedom

Source: The post is based on an article “Weaponization of IPC to set police on journalists cuts across parties – and clamps down on press freedom” published in the Indian Express on 7th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Important provisions of the constitution of India

Relevance: Fundamental Rights

News: Recently, Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of Alt News, and Rohit Ranjan, Zee News anchor were arrested by Delhi Police and Chhattisgarh Police, respectively, in different circumstances and specific contexts.

What were the causes?

Zubair was arrested for a 2018 tweet that shared a clip from a 1980s’ film by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, weeks after he flagged controversial remarks that were made on the Prophet, in his TV debate.

He was arrested under Sections 153 (A) and 295 (A), for promoting enmity between different groups, and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings among the community.

Rohit Ranjan was arrested for his show which ran a misleading video of Rahul Gandhi, for which the channel later apologised.

Argument against such arrest

The arrest amounts to endangering due process and violations of the rights and freedoms of speech and expression.

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom to ask questions to the state, express opposition or dissent.

There are allegations of weaponization of the sections of IPC. For example, misuse of IPC’s Section 124A in Ravi’s case or Sections 153 and 295 against Zubair and Ranjan in the ongoing case.

On the world stage, India speaks of “vibrant democracy” and commits to “protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline”.

Way Forward

The ruling parties as well as the opposition parties need to look at their failure to protect free speech.

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