Times of India reported that the case of a 19 year old blogger Ajith may forever change the way bloggers blog in India. To quote TOI,
“Bloggers may no longer express their uninhibited views on everything under the sun, for the Supreme Court said they may face libel and even prosecution for the blog content.
It will no longer be safe to start a blog and invite others to register their raunchy, caustic and even abusive comments on an issue while seeking protection behind the disclaimer – views expressed on the blog are that of the writers.”
In less than 24 hours from now you’d see an army of bloggers lamenting the death of their freedom of speech, some facebook group would be floated, every blogger would be asking one question, “can we do something about it? it would become a trending topic on Twitter and all the soldiers of blogsphere would do their best to save their ‘freedom of speech’ from being trampled under the feet of tyranny.
Uff spare me the drama I say.
I very much welcome this decision of Supreme Court and see this as a step ahead for Indian Blogsphere. This would help clean up a lot of shit that goes around the blogsphere, will help us become more responsible and mature writers thereby establishing credibility for bloggers’ opinion and most importantly it would kill the terrible habit of writing all kinds of indecent, uncivilized, abusive things anonymously in the comments thread. This would also compel the blog owner or community discussion board owner to keep the discussion clean and abuse free. It will enforce the dicipline of self regulation on bloggers, isn’t that a great thing to achieve.
I have not read the court order / judgment but from the TOI report it seems that Supreme Court has held the opinion that bloggers cannot be allowed to get away from charges of Libel, Slander, defamation etc on the ground that those are merely exercise of freedom of speech. The Court said, “if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct.”
To me this is very obvious and it is surprising that the Court had to actually spend its vluable time in answering a question which could have simply been asnwered by applying logic. What a mainstream media person cannot do via TV or print, a blogger is not allowed to do via internet. If a certain content falls within the defination of any of the crimes mentioned in IPC you cannot get away with it on the pretext of freedom of speech.
The bloggers need to understand they are not beyond law. Blog is just another tool for expressing our thoughts and opinions. As a bloggers we are conferred upon exactly the same fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression that any other media has, and in the interest of democracy it is bound by the same reasonable restrictions which regulate any other form of media. Bloggers don’t have to go into frenzy every time there is the slightest incidence of regulation of their content. There is no need to be so insecure. Regulation of the content doesn’t by default mean that somebody is trying to take away their rights. Our Fundamental Rights are very strong and they can’t be taken away that easily. As long as you are writing responsibly and maturely there is no reason to be insecure about your freedom.
Bloggers already enjoy a lot of freedom of speech without any regulation. Most of the time if the blog is not popular the blogger would get away with any unconstitutional statement simply because no body cares to even read them. If however the content is from a blog that has good viewer ship or is so over the top, so obviously defamatory or slanderous that the police actually registers a criminal complaint against it, the blogger would have to face the proceedings. He is obviously within his rights to prove his innocence to the Court by providing sufficient evidence to support his opinions / accusations. But to assume that in my blog I can say or write anything against anybody without thinking twice about the consequences is rather immature.
Bloggers need to learn where do criticism end and direct accusation begin, they need to know that you can’t accuse some one unless you have valid proof in your hand. Same mistake was done by Mr. Kunte for which he faced legal threats from NDTV.
Insecure reactions have already started coming from the Bloggers / micro Bloggers community on Twitter. @knkarth says “this would help reduce reaction power of the blogging world n hand over it to the political parties? It’s sad.” When I said this decision will make us responsible and mature writers, @Sandipb asked me, “what exactly makes you feel that ‘responsible & mature’ writers are going to be spared after this precedent?” Some of the opinions acutually amuses me and establishes the point that you cannot just go about blabbing whatever comes to your mind without giving it a second thought, for eg @Gmishra says, “Who defines responsibility? or the border line! Does SC understands blogosphere good enough to judge us ?” This man can actually be booked under contempt of court for suggesting, Supreme Court is incapable of judging a case infront of it. He further says, “I don’t trust my legal system and that’s why i need more freedom.”
I see no reason to have such fears unless of course blogging to you means mindless irrational, irresponsible biased rants. No body is there waiting for an excuse to jump on Bloggers throat and slit it. This nation has more important issues to handle than to curb a handful of Bloggers freedom. If however they cross the line they’ll face the same consequences as faced by a journalist or writer or film maker etc.