Free Speech Policy in India: Community, Custom, Censorship, and the Future of Internet Regulation

[Summary] Following the historic striking down of section 66A of the IT Act, there are reports the government is looking to introduce new provisions to censor the Internet. Free speech observers are not giving enough attention to the many clues from India’s past governmental policy of free speech that suggests a trend of censorship founded upon concerns of governance, nation-building, community honour, and public order. This free speech policy has interacted with colonial-era notions of indigenous custom to create a narrative that pits individual rights against community interests, modern law against local sensibilities, courts against government. The Rangeela Rasool affair (1927), the First Press Commission (1954), and the Second Press Commission (1982) are seminal moments in the evolution of this policy that indicate the contours of future government action. Past experience shows that strong governments invariably impede free speech. Looking ahead, section 66A’s replacement, which may not be a new provision but could be something more covert, will almost certainly act on this narrative and continue the government’s free speech policy.

India’s ‘Anti-conversion’ Laws, the ‘Right to Propagate’, and the Mainstreaming of Chauvinism

[Abstract] With the Gujarat High Court due to decide on Gujarat’s ‘anti-conversion’ law, the issue of conversions appears poised to re-enter the national agenda. It is being accompanied by vituperative public speech questioning the basis of India’s diversity and minorities. The ‘right to propagate’ religion has had a troubled career. There were voices in the Constituent Assembly which opposed it and imposed regulatory conditions upon it. After Independence, there have been two waves of anti-conversion laws; the first wave in the 1960s culminated in the landmark Stanislaus decision which treated conversions as a matter of public disorder, thereby legitimising the claim that minorities cause disharmony. In the second wave in the 2000s, conversions have been more heavily policed. When the Supreme Court examines the Gujarat statute, it will be a historic opportunity to overturn the Stanislaus decision and return pluralism and inclusiveness to the national imagination.

A Brief Legal History of the Decriminalisation of Homosexual Sex in the UK and USA

[Description] This note briefly narrates a legal history of the decriminalisation of homosexual sex in the United Kingdom and United States through major cases and statutes. It is confined to sexual activity, over which privacy claims have been upheld, only; it does not track current developments regarding same-sex marriage. It does not examine Indian law in respect of homosexuality nor the constitutional challenges to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which demand a strict and separate scrutiny.