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HomeNewsEvery citizen has right to criticise abrogation of Art 370: SC

Every citizen has right to criticise abrogation of Art 370: SC

NEW DELHI: The

Supreme Court

on Thursday said that every citizen has the right to criticize any decision made by the state while quashing an FIR against a professor who had criticized the abrogation of

Article 370

through his WhatsApp status.
The Bombay high court’s order was set aside by the apex court, which dismissed the case against Professor Javed Ahmed Hajam.

The FIR was registered under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code for promoting communal disharmony.
The professor had shared WhatsApp messages expressing his views on the abrogation of Article 370, referring to it as a “Black Day” for Jammu and Kashmir.

“August 5-Black Day Jammu & Kashmir” and “14th August-?Happy Independence Day Pakistan,” his WhatsApp status said.
The Supreme Court further emphasized that every citizen has the right to extend good wishes to citizens of other countries on their respective independence days. It observed that if an Indian citizen wishes the citizens of Pakistan on their Independence Day, there is nothing wrong with it.
“The Constitution of India, under Article 19(1)(a), guarantees freedom of speech and expression. Under the said guarantee, every citizen has the right to offer criticism of the action of abrogation of Article 370 or, for that matter, every decision of the state. He has the right to say he is unhappy with any decision of the state,” a bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan said.

The right to dissent in a lawful manner is an integral part of the rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and must be respected by every individual, the top court said.
“Every individual must respect the right of others to dissent. An opportunity to peacefully protest against the decisions of the Government is an essential part of democracy.
“The right to dissent in a lawful manner must be treated as a part of the right to lead a dignified and meaningful life guaranteed by Article 21,” it said.
In the present case, the court said that the appellant, Professor Hajam, did not cross any line with his statements. It stated that the possibility of stirring up emotions among certain individuals cannot be the basis for judging the impact of the appellant’s words.
“The appellant’s college teachers, students, and parents were allegedly members of the WhatsApp group. As held by Justice Vivian Bose, the effect of the words used by the appellant on his WhatsApp status will have to be judged from the standards of reasonable women and men.
“We cannot apply the standards of people with weak and vacillating minds,” it said adding that “our country has been a democratic republic for more than 75 years”.
The Supreme Court also highlighted the need to educate and enlighten the police about the concept of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. It urged sensitizing the police about democratic values enshrined in the Constitution to prevent the abuse of the legal process.
(With agency inputs)