A pattern has been revealed in the cases involving Free speech presented to Supreme Court since January. An example of classic citizen-versus-state litigation is where a case is seeking enforcement in the fundamental right to freedom of speech.
Scrutiny of 10 cases before SC revealed a telling pattern: cases, where the court upheld the right or gave relief, were where the state and petitioner argued on the same index. In the other six cases, where the state was the defendant and objected, there was no relief to the petitioner given.
The first case where the court upheld the right to freedom of speech was filed by Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, seeking quashing of FIR’s filed in connection with a TV show on April 21.
He was seen there questioning Sonia Gandhi over lynching of 2 Sadhu’s and driver in Palghar, Maharashtra. On May 19, SC rejected all but one FIR and said the filing of multiple FIR’s relating to the same incident is “an abuse of process and must be quashed”.
On June 25, FIR’s against journalist Amish Devgan for allegedly hurting religious sentiments in his show. SC suspended investigation, transfered files to locations in Noida.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented Central Government and supported the quashing and stay of firs in both Goswami’s and Devgan’s pleas.
A two-judge vacation bench of SC on 26th June granted an ex-parte stay on multiple FIR’s against journalist Nupur J Sharma. Three others were filled by West Bengal Police & suspended further coercive action.
Other 6 cases where centre raised objections, SC gave no relief.
On May 30, SC refused to intervene to quash FIR’s in a case involving Congress leader Pankaj Punia, in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh & Madhya Pradesh for a tweet allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
Former Jawahar Lal Nehru University student, Sharjeel Imam charged with sedition and hate speech also moved the top court over FIR’s filed in at least 5 states: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh & Manipur for same speech.
On May 26, Imam sought a transfer of his pleas to Delhi but that is yet to be decided and last week, the SC adjourned his plea again by another week.
Supreme Court has also refused to stay the criminal investigation against journalist Vinod Dua in Himachal Pradesh in a sedition case filed by BJP leader Shyam Kumar said.
On March 18, SC asked Gorakhpur based pediatrician Kafeel Khan’s mother Nuzhar Perweento move to Allahabad High Court to challenge the FIR against Khan for alleged inflammatory speech.
Also in March, the Supreme Court had declined to hear activist Harsh Mander in a case related to communal riots in Delhi.
Following the abrogation of article 370 in the state in August 2019, Kashmir challenged the Communications blockade imposed. Supreme Court reiterated the inalienability of Freedom of Speech & Expression. Thou it did not adjudicate on the facts of the case concerning national security.
Attorney General for India KK Venugopal argued that while deciding on Freedom of Speech & Expression court must consider “the background of terrorism in the state”.
While hearing a plea relating to the disqualification of 19 rebel Congress MLAs in Rajasthan, in SC on July 23rd the bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said that “voice of dissent cannot be suppressed in a democracy.”