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Urge Govt to Make New Regulations to Define 'Free Speech': Senior Lawyer Harish Salve to SC

The bench is hearing a matter concerning statements made by public figures, particularly politicians, regarding an ongoing investigation. The question relates to the liability of politicians when they comment on cases as against their right to free speech.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:November 20, 2019, 5:30 PM IST
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Urge Govt to Make New Regulations to Define 'Free Speech': Senior Lawyer Harish Salve to SC
A file photo of the Supreme Court.

New Delhi: Veteran lawyer Harish Salve on Wednesday favoured a regulatory mechanism to define contours of free speech as also to impose restrictions on it.

The former Solicitor General submitted before the Supreme Court that the government should come up with regulations to define what constitutes “free speech” that is protected under the Constitution and what does not.

“The time has come to take the next step in the phase of jurisprudential evolution of this country. The state must now create an ecosystem which will protect everyone’s rights,” Salve argued before a Constitution Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.

Salve said laying down a regulatory mechanism may even contain the problems arising out of speeches on platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

Assisting the bench as ‘amicus curiae’, Salve said that the government should be directed to frame a regulation that can be subsequently tested by the Supreme Court.

“If they (regulations) go too far, then the court can interdict. And if the regulations fall short, then also this court can pass suitable directions. Please ask the state to frame regulations,” he said.

Salve said building blocks are already there and the state needs to put them together in the shape of our new jurisprudence.

“Courts have to reinvent and reform the jurisprudence to take into account the present situation. Especially in these times of social media, there has to be a new regime,” he argued.

At this, the Bench responded that the court cannot direct the Parliament to frame a certain law. “This court can, however, put in place a mechanism, like in Vishaka’s case of harassment of women at workplaces, to ensure the rights of people are not violated,” said Justice Mishra.

Agreeing with the bench, Salve said some guidelines may be issued till the time a suitable legislation comes through.

The views of the senior lawyer come at a time when the central government is mulling new rules to fasten liability on social media entities, especially over the information of originators.

The bench is hearing a matter concerning statements made by public figures, particularly politicians, regarding an ongoing investigation. The question relates to the liability of politicians when they comment on cases as against their right to free speech.

The hearing on Wednesday remained inconclusive and will resume on Thursday.

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| Edited by: Moonmoon Ghosh
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