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We Have Become Intolerant and Irrational, Says Supreme Court judge

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated: April 20, 2017, 2:34 PM IST
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We Have Become Intolerant and Irrational, Says Supreme Court judge
File photo of Supreme Court Justice Jasti Chelameswar.

New Delhi: A sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India on Thursday said that the two issues plaguing the country at the moment are the low levels of tolerance among the masses and rural-urban disconnect.

Speaking at the MN Roy Memorial Lecture on Free Speech, Nationalism and Sedition, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, known for his refusal to be a part of the SC Collegium system, said it was not just the judiciary but also civil society that plays a major part in determining the legal rights in the country.

“In today’s society, the evolution of society plays an important role in allowing someone to enjoy their rights,” he said.

The apex court judge, who had struck down the controversial Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act (1961) upholding freedom of speech on Internet, said, “What is the renaissance that India has achieved over the last 70 years? It is that, as a society, we have become more intolerant and irrational. There is a huge disconnect between urban India and rural India. How cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore perceive issues are completely different than what rural India thinks.”

Citing the Jallikattu row in Tamil Nadu, Justice Chelameswar said the rising intolerance of the masses with the judiciary was a matter of grave concern.

“What happened in Tamil Nadu shows the real manifestation of all these problems. Until the issue came to the Supreme Court, Jallikattu was nothing but a sport which was confined to some remote areas of Tamil Nadu. But look at the kind of attention it got as soon as the law got involved. Such an attitude will only proliferate to other states. Where are we heading by defying the apex court?”

Laying emphasis on the need to come out of caste-based politics, Justice Chelameswar said, “Caste has been given a lot of importance in the past several years; even in budget speeches, specific allocations have been made to caste-based organisations. When such allocations are made, others demand it too. This is not healthy.”

Former chief justice of the Delhi High Court Justice AP Shah, who also participated in the conference, questioned the way those holding views different than that of the government were ‘being dubbed anti-national’.

“In a democracy, freedom of speech rings hollow if the government cannot ensure the same,” said the chairman of the 20th Law Commission, adding that it’s about time to repeal the draconian Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which deals with sedition.

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