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Age of bans is over: Jaitley

Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture - 2015

New Delhi : The government should stay away from putting any curbs on freedom of expression as the “age of bans is over”, Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said today, but maintained that restrictions imposed in the Constitution play an important role in the larger interest.

Delivering the Sardar Patel lecture organised by All India Radio (AIR) here, the Union minister noted that while the right to freedom of expression has expanded in India through successive judicial verdicts and technological advances, its misuse also continue to happen.

“Many believe, and I am one of those who do believe, that the age of bans is now over. It is literally impossible if not very difficult to implement them,” he said.

Reiterating that the government should not step into curbing the right to freedom of expression, Jaitley said, “Should the state step in? As far as possible, no”.

The minister noted that while print media and to a large extent electronic media adopt discretions in their content, social media completely lacks such a mechanism.

He pointed out that makers of the Constitution rightly held that freedom of speech and expression is not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions which were specifically defined.

“In a society where because of multi- religious, multi-cultural reasons there are sensitivities, what do we do if somebody crosses the Lakshman Rekha itself? What would the Indian society have done if instead of the Danish cartoonist, it would have been an Indian cartoonist?

“And therefore we have criminal laws in provision but then in extreme cases, very reluctantly so, some power of restraint in larger interest so that it doesn’t disturb public order, and that is where those 1950s restrictions imposed in Article 19(2) itself will have an important role to play,” he said.

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