Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal raised concerns regarding the independence of the Judiciary during an online seminar on Saturday. Apart from allegations that the Courts had become a tool of the government, Sibal argued that matters of national importance are not taken up while other matters of less import according to him are given credence.
In this light, Kapil Sibal argued that the Supreme Court should regulate media and social media and not spend time on matters such as the Sabarimala Verdict review. He considers it a matter of national importance for the Supreme Court to restrict and regulate the speech of individuals on social media. But the faith of Hindu devotees does not appear to be a cause of concern for him.
The tendencies in mainstream media and social media have destroyed the concept of fair communication. SC must look into this, instead of setting up a 9 judge bench for something like Sabarimala review : Sibal @KapilSibal— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) June 27, 2020
According to Kapil Sibal, the press cannot claim right to freedom of speech and expression because their speech is, apparently, ‘commercial speech’. He said, “Mainstream media is funded by politics, and it supports the prominent ones who are in power. This is completely contrary to concept of media’s responsibility. You must segregate ‘news’ from ‘views’.”
“The views of media are not ‘free speech’ but ‘commercial speech’. This cannot claim protection under Article 19(1)(a),” Kapil Sibal added. The freedom of press in India is implied in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India which guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression. According to the Congress leader, the press should not have this right.
The senior Congress aide said that the media and social media have “destroyed the concept of fair communication”. And therefore, he believes the Supreme Court should instead focus on curbing the freedom of expression of the press and social media instead of reviewing its Sabarimala verdict, which had caused completely avoidable strife in the country.
The claims made by Kapil Sibal is extremely dangerous for freedom of the press. It appears that the Congress party truly believes that the media should not have the right to freedom of speech and expression. This is far more dictatorial than the stand any political party has taken thus far. It appears that the Congress party of 2020 is dreaming of imposing the dark days of Emergency.
The war that the Congress party has launched against Republic TV and its Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami is evidence of that fact. The Maharashtra Government inflicted tremendous harassment on him and certain Congress leaders even wanted Republic TV and Arnab Goswami to be taken off air. Thus, Sibal’s statement claiming that the press is not entitled to freedom of speech and expression is consistent with how the party has behaved in recent times and in sync with its past.
It is also important to remember that the Congress party in its manifesto for the 2019 General Elections had promised to regulate social media and “Pass regulations to stop the spread of fake news and hate speech and punish those who misuse digital and social media.” Since it lost the actions terribly and is not in position to regulate social media, it appears that the Congress party wants the Judiciary to enforce the party’s poll promise.