21 June, 2021

No Elastic Leashes

An undemocratic idea cannot make up for lack of ‘ideal’ regulation

Illustration by Sorit
No Elastic Leashes

The most retrograde idea of recent times pertaining to free speech was Rajiv Gandhi’s Anti-Defamation Bill of 1988. It allowed the filing of defamation cases on easy grounds, provided for summary trials and stipulated minimum jail terms for editors. The intensity of the nationwide protests forced the government to drop the bill. The most retrograde idea since then has come from Manish Tewari, the mint-fresh Union MoS for information and broadcasting. He is drafting a bill to give the Press Council of India (PCI) punitive and regulatory powers.

Strangely, several of these ideas had figured in a private member’s bill proposed last year by the newbie MP Meenakshi Natarajan. Crowned as a discovery of Rahul Gandhi, she had had no connection whatsoever with the subject of her bill. Naturally,  questions arose about hidden hands at work. Inexplicably, the lady absented herself on the day the bill was to be introduced, taking it off the screen. Was Tewari hitting the ‘Refresh’ button on the ideas from his party’s inner-wheel club? Are hidden...

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