Political Commentator Abhijit Iyer Mitra’s Arrest Reignites Freedom Of Expression Debate
The arrest of political commentator Abhijit Iyer Mitra has once again stirred the pot around freedom of expression with advocates calling for a re-look at legislation.
The issue of sending a person to jail because of something he said needs to be looked at in the larger context, Supreme Court advocate Apar Gupta told BloombergQuint in an interaction. Freedom of expression is not only about protecting polite expressions but must also be extended to people who say something disdainful, Gupta said.
I think he’s a professional provocateur and for the law to basically proceed against him is basically an abuse.Apar Gupta, Advocate, Supreme Court
Mitra was arrested Thurday by the Odisha state police for his remarks about Konark's Sun Temple in in a video that went viral on social media. The police deemed his remarks to be derogatory. He was later granted bail by a Delhi court on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and directive to joint the ongoing investigation in the state by Sept. 28.
Mitra’s arrest marks a gentle slide into the "Republic of the permanently offended", remarked advocate Satyajit Sarna, adding that the exceptions to freedom of speech are very narrow-minded.
The real danger that you must look at is of public disorder, of riots, the breakdown of law and order.Satyajit Sarna, Advocate, Delhi High Court
Gupta pointed towards the rising use of social media by citizens to pose their views and engage in debate. He said that social media has given Indians a platform with a large audience where they can be heard. But it should come with certain responsiblities and civic education, he added.
We live in an age that is awash with media. Just because we don’t like a tweet, our immediate reactions shouldn’t be to go to a police station but to in fact call it out and criticise it in a way that is non-abusive and non-threatening.Apar Gupta, Advocate, Supreme Court
Watch the full conversation here.