Letters to the Editor: Too much democracy, social media and CCTV in police stations
Attorney General, speaking out against curbs on social media, has come with caveat that judiciary and govt have the option of resorting to contempt of court proceedings if freedom of speech is misused
The NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant this week said there was too much democracy in the country for hard reforms. But the Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal declared that any move to curb social media would “be very wrong for democracy”. This may appear confusing to some; but this is how this govt has chosen to govern: Speaking in different voices, taking different stand on the same issue on different platforms. While someone in the govt speaks against reservations, another one speaks in favour. The PM says there was no Chinese aggression while the Defence Minister acknowledges it. This could possibly pass for smart politics. But it is clearly dishonest. Either this is part of a design, in which case it is diabolical; or it could be accidental, which would indicate ineptitude. In either case it is worrying for the country and our democracy.
Social media freedom
Attorney General KK Venugopal, speaking out against curbs on social media, has come with the caveat that judiciary and govt have the option of resorting to contempt of court proceedings if freedom of speech is misused. While the AG needs to be complimented for taking a stand and saying, “Citizens, whether on social media or otherwise, must have the freedom to express their views about the working of institutions” and “I will be the last person to say social media needs to be regulated …,” it does not quite square up with the sanctions he has given for contempt of court proceedings against Kunal Kamra and Rachita Taneja, a stand-up comic and a cartoonist respectively. Nor does the sanction stand up to the SC’s own position vis-à-vis Arnab Goswami and Republic TV. Responding to complaints that the channel and anchor were guilty of misusing freedom, it famously observed that if people did not like the channel, they needn’t watch it. Shouldn’t the same logic be extended to others?
Thank you for publishing the revealing personal experience of journalist Prashant Kanojia. It was an eye opener to learn he was administered electric shock at Hazratganj police station in the heart of Lucknow. Although it did not come as a surprise to read about the casteist abuses and slurs used by policemen and the SHO, a woman, Kanojia’s bold challenge that an independent inspection and audit of police stations would unearth several skeletons is worth pursuing by civil society activists.
What I could make out from Kanojia’s claim is that police stations have unaccounted firearms, contraband, drugs and even vehicles, which are used to plant as evidence against the innocent. Surely an independent audit by teams comprising retired policemen and judges besides activists, housewives and other citizens will be welcomed by the police and the state? Even the state, one suspects, has no idea of the inventory. The audit hopefully will help clean up the system along with CCTV cameras that the apex court wants installed in police stations.
Under the law High Courts have administrative jurisdiction over prisons. HC judges are expected to inspect jails periodically and see if rules are being followed. These inspections were also designed possibly to provide an opportunity to inmates to air grievances and get quick redressals. But the denial of a sipper or straw to Stan Swami and failure of prison authorities to accept spectacles sent by his family for another political prisoner Gautam Navlakha, raises uncomfortable questions. When was the last time jails were inspected? And how much time did the honourable judges spend there? Are there minutes of their visit and logs of complaints that they addressed? The fact that undertrials are forced to appeal to courts for such basic convenience reflects poorly on our prison system. Human Rights violations have never been taken seriously by judiciary but it is time for SC to intervene and set things right..
Corrections & Clarifications
I am shocked and dismayed to see my interview in the National Herald Sunday today (Dec 13, 2020). I had never said that the ‘Government is lazy’, as has been attributed to me below the headline. The interview's recording will bear me out. As you will understand, this can be easily misconstrued by an ordinary reader and certainly by vested interests.
As a matter of fact, I did say to your interviewer that I often find economists and quick-fix analysts, who find it easy to accuse hardworking farmers as being lazy, as being lazy themselves. I stand by it.
I hope and expect you to make suitable corrections to dispel the impression so that readers get a clear idea of my intent.
Editor's Note: We regret the inadvertent attribution and the inconvenience caused by the editorial mistake. We are making the necessary correction.
Published: 13 Dec 2020, 7:50 PM