ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Civil Liberties

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.

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.

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 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.

The gags on student politics in Kashmir University is yet another instance of the throttling of freedom of speech and association in universities across the world. Alexander Downs' book on university politics in the United States shows why students and faculty must come together to codify political rights on campuses such as Kashmir University.

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.

Minorities need far better representation in legislatures. A global report highlights the main issues.

The decision of the union minister for information and broadcasting, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi to pack the advisory panels on film censorship with office-bearers of the Youth Congress undermines a quasi-judicial authority.

The recently tabled US Free Flow of Information Bill that seeks to balance the right to protect journalists? sources with the people?s right to free flow of information and also the state?s duty to administer justice and punish offenders, provides India with a good model to work on. The Indian media, in turn, must work together to draft a bill and move the government of India to ensure its enactment in Parliament.

Minority Rights and Human Rights The Rights of Minorities: A Commentary on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities edited by Marc Weller; Oxford University Press; pp 688,

The police force has been abused systematically by successive governments at the centre and in the states. Its independence has been undermined and its morale sapped. The wonder is that it is still able to perform.