The right to dissent is essential for democracy: SC


The right to criticize the government is a fundamental right and not a seditious act was ruled by SC judges. Justice Deepak Gupta while addressing a lawyers workshop in Ahmedabad clarified that “Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the armed forces cannot be termed sedition. If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.”

To challenge, to verify, ask questions and accountability from the government is a basic right of an individual. No citizen should fear while asking questions to the government.

He said,” For me, there is a very important right which is not spelt out in the Constitution.. the right of freedom of opinion, the right to freedom of Conscience, by themselves includes the most important right – the right to dissent.” He also added that every society runs on a set of rules. If people keep following those ancient rules and conventions, then society cannot develop. With changing times we shall adapt to modern ways.

He further said, “New thinkers are born when they disagree with well-accepted norms of the society. If everybody follows the well-trodden path, no new paths will be created and no new vistas of the mind will be found.” If a person doesn’t ask questions and keeps following the old systems, no new systems will develop. New thoughts, customs, and religious practices have developed only when the old once was questioned.

“If we stifle criticism of these institutions, we shall become a police state instead of a democracy.”, Gupta said.

The government’s current fashion of calling anyone “anti-national” for speaking against it, is barbaric. What Justice Gupta meant was freedom of speech is a fundamental right of every citizen and criticism of the government cannot be termed as sedition.

In recent years many sedition cases have been registered against students and activists who have expressed their disagreements against the government. In a very recent incident, Safoora Zargar, Jamia Millia Islamia student who is 21 weeks pregnant is arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). She is accused of being a part of Delhi riots and had been denied bail for the third time.

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