Criminal defamation survives: a blot on free speech
The criminal defamation judgement reiterates the apex court's lukewarm commitment to free speech in recent times
On 13 May, the Supreme Court upheld criminal sanctions as a constitutional remedy for the protection of reputations. The needlessly long judgement has been criticized in many quarters as a severe blow to free speech rights in the country—and rightly so. Criminal defamation serves no purpose in a democracy that functions on the rule of law. In fact, its existence in the statute books offers an unhealthy recourse to people in power to stifle dissent and ward off criticism. In this way, criminal defamation in its worst form allows the hegemonic consolidation of undemocratic power, not despite, but precisely because of the rule of law.