Politics of bans and rights
- India to convey concerns over Ladakh incursion to Chinese Premier
- IPL spot-fixing case: Delhi Police to trace money trail in four cities
- IPL 2013 LIVE SCORE: Mumbai Indians bowl, Sachin Tendulkar misses out
- Rajapaksa slams Tamil diaspora for lack of support in reconciliation process
- 5 differently abled orphan girls beaten, raped in Jaipur residential school
I disagree with what you have to say, but will fight to the death to protect your right to say it. In the context of the Taslima Nasreen debate, this sentence, or its variant, is now indiscriminately quoted and is ascribed to Voltaire. Not that it matters, but Voltaire never wrote or said anything of the kind. In 1906, Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote a book, under the pseudonym Stephen G. Tallentyre. This was titled The Friends of Voltaire and in it Hall described what she interpreted as Voltaire's attitude when Helvetius' (1715-1771) book Essays on the Mind was banned. Thanks to Hall, a quote came to be misattributed to Voltaire. However, Voltaire did write something similar in Essay on Tolerance and rather than bring in words like "death", that quote is more pertinent. "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too". That's the classic liberal position, one of upholding individual rights like freedom of speech or freedom of expression, since expression may not always be verbal. Indeed, restrictions on freedom of expression are correlated with authoritarian and repressive regimes and abuse. However, is an individual right ever absolute?
It can't be, for it is conceivable that the exercise of my individual right might constrain yours, and there is a difference between exercising an individual right in my private domain and doing it in public. For instance, it might be fine for me to walk around nude in my apartment, but should I be allowed to do it in public? If I am a serial killer, exercise of my individual right might require me to murder people. Should that be allowed? Even in relatively free countries, including the US, freedom of expression is a relative, not absolute right — defamation, obscenity, perjury, copyright violations, actions that incite hate, sedition and blasphemy, are all instances where freedom of expression has been curbed in developed countries. It's fine to argue that curbs on freedom of expression must be regarded with scepticism, since the thin end of the wedge gets in and abuse of individual rights is possible. But arguments that freedom of expression must be absolute are ridiculous. In our Constitution too, freedom of speech and expression is a relative right. Article 19(1)(a) states, "All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression", and notice this is a right conferred on Indian citizens.
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- To re-energise ties, PM wants to visit US, waits for confirmation
- NIA court says no terror link, frees 'Hizbul militant' Liyaqat on bail
- CBI arrests its coal allotments investigator on bribery charge
- ‘Cricketer-bookie Amit may have used Jiju to reach Sree’
- BCCI chief N Srinivasan says police must prove spot-fixing allegations