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A G Noorani

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act: Urgency of Review

The draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 is under review in the Ministry of Home Affairs. This review must call for a drastic amendment of Section 4 which confers extreme powers on officers, including to cause death, and it must provide for the constitution of an appellate body to entertain complaints against forces using the AFSPA.

Free Speech and Religion

A discussion of the resolution on defamation of religion that was adopted earlier this year by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

India: A Security State

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act of 2008 and the National Investigation Agency Act of 2008 form part of a series of laws that go back nearly a quarter century.

The Press Council: An Expensive Irrelevance

There are proposals to amend the Press Council Act 1978 to give the Press Council of India more powers, including the power to withhold advertisements. These are dangerous proposals. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the PCI does not need more powers. It needs a speedy burial by a statute. But that imposes on the media a burden it must bear if it is to deserve freedom. It must set up a credible, representative body to oversee a code of conduct drawn up by the media itself.

Lawless Lawyers

A new kind of justice has crept into the Bar in India. It is a form of mob justice in which those who earn their living by law and are pledged to uphold it have been pressurising their colleagues not to appear in cases where the assailants judge the accused guilty before trial and demand instant punishment by the court without allowing the accused their right to a fair trial.

Textbooks and the Constitution

When the state sanctions textbooks that are politically partisan, historically false or communally inciteful, the citizen's right to education is violated. There have been many instances of such a violation in India. But there should be legal remedies available. A case study from a court ruling in the United Kingdom on the screening of Al Gore's film on climate change in schools.

Films and Free Speech

The law does not permit bans on films which hurt the feelings of worshippers of historical figures or political leaders. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's rulings have been none too consistent.

The Constitution and Censorship of Plays

Theatre Censorship: From Walpole to Wilson by David Thomas, David Carlton and Anne Etienne

Book Banning

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, but on the statutes are provisions which empower the central and state governments to ban and seize books on unconstitutional grounds and to even launch criminal proceedings.

Liberty vs Security: The Canadian Model

In the tension between guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and ensuring security, it devolves on the courts to maintain the balance and protect the rights of citizens. In contrast to the attitude of Indian courts, a recent judgment of the Canadian Supreme Court can be held up as a model of judicial sensitivity to human rights and fairness.