The Constitution of India declares the right to freedom of speech and expression to all the citizens of India. It includes various aspects under free speech with reasonable restrictions for the public. The right to offend is also part of this freedom. Every citizen is given the right to express their opinions without any issue.
There are restrictions for the freedom of speech and expression but the right to offend is not considered under restrictions. This is because it is purely an opinion given in any matter. It may offend the person involved but it cannot be an offense under the same.
In this modern era, rights are being misused by the people in ways beyond the control of law, and such rights are taken for granted without any reasonable grounds. Misuse of any right is morally and legally wrong if it goes against the interest of the public and harms society in any manner. Rights are meant to protect the public and it is not right to misuse the same to harm or exploit any other person in society.
Balancing Act between Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and the Right to Offend
Rights are provided to the citizens of India to ensure their needs are fulfilled without any fail. The constitution of India provides rights to the citizens so that the people can live in peace and harmony. This is done by balancing their personal and social life without harming any other person. The rights have to be provided to everyone equally and in the right manner by respecting the rights of every other by protecting your rights.
The right to freedom of speech and expression is a right that helps in giving our opinions when required based on the circumstances and to let others know where we stand on any subject. This freedom is complex as it can result in positive and negative impacts very easily.
Article 19(2) deals with the reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in the interest of the public where it cannot be misused in any manner. In India, the right to free speech involves the wide discretion of the judges where the question of offensiveness to any person is determined. The balance has to be established between the right to free speech and the right to offend. The nature of the right has to be determined based on the facts and circumstances of each case. It is said that rights form the foundation of society. This is because they ensure safety and protection for the people of society. A society where they can exercise their rights without fearing anyone. Rights come along with power and it has to be used effectively to fulfill the purpose of providing such rights in the first place.
Right to Offend
The right to offend is one of the rights under freedom of speech and expression. It is a right to express one person’s opinion on a particular matter. When the opinion is given on a disputed topic or any sensitive issue, then there are possibilities to offend another. But it should be considered as an opinion only rather than an offensive commendation. The issue with such an opinion is that it can offend only some people. It may not sound offensive to those who put forward their opinions on such matters.
When giving opinions it should be seen that they should be put forward only after verifying their nature and determining whether they can offend any individual. Even though the right to offend is provided to the citizens it has to be noted that it should not be used intentionally to hurt others. That would be morally incorrect. Words are powerful weapons that can create an explosion and hence it has to be used very carefully without any harm.
It can be seen that the constitution permits the government to put restrictions on freedom of speech for protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country but this can be done only if it causes some kind of violence or provokes to create violence. There were many arguments on Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The section deals with sedition where many case laws were discussed concerning the same. In Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, it was held that the sedition law under Section 124A is valid but it has to be restricted for prevention of any kind of misuse concerning it.
In this present 21st century, people have started involving in socio-legal developments where they are looking for answers beyond the law. We are also questioning the law in certain cases. Regulation of hate speech in India has become a challenge due to its complex nature. It is confusing concerning freedom of speech and expression. It has been a topic of discussion for a long time where it is often questioned as to whether hate speech is protected under the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).
Hate speech has been a part of society for a long time. It has come up in various instances of sedition and defamation. These issues were frequently dealt with depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. Hate speech is something that can be defined as an expression of hatred towards a person. Such instances are bound to arise due to the increasing role of the people in society. The involvement of people in various aspects of society has increased over time. This is why it is important to regulate to ensure their rights are protected and not misused in any way.
Defining Counter Speech
The simple definition of counter speech can be said as the reply to hate speech. It can result in violence and provoking others. It is a reply given to undo the harm created by hate speech. The counter-speech can vary depending on the hate speech and the severity is also depending on both concepts. Counter-speech can be given by any person, even the victim who chooses to respond positively or negatively.
Most of the counter speeches end in violence and turn out to make the issue worse. It can be worse than before due to the severity of the hate speech. The power of counter-speech depends on the nature of giving the counter speech. There can be variations in the impact of the same as it can create hatred on one end. On the other, it can give clarity to the issue and resolve the problem.
Counter-speech should be considered as a positive response rather than a negative commendation. Hate speeches denote hatred of one individual towards the other. While counter-speech is the mechanism used to resolve the damage caused by hate speech. In this fast-changing world, where technology has become an important part, issues related to freedom of speech have increased. This is due to the availability of online platforms to express opinions and views on any topic without much problem.
The right to offend comes under the ambit of the right to freedom of speech and expression as it is just a way of expressing opinion and views on any matter. The issue and how it is expressed through words will have an impact on the whole issue but it has to be considered as an opinion which is a right given to the citizens of India. But at the same time, it has to be seen that the right to offend is not misused in any manner which destroys the intention of the provision.
Rights are given to the citizens to ensure that they get benefitted out of such rights and to make sure it is not exploited in any manner. If any misuse or exploitation happens, then rights will protect and provide measures to ensure their safety in society. In this changing society, even though certain aspects change with time, the rights have to be protected. New measures have to be taken with the increasing developments. It is high time to regulate the laws concerning the rights of the citizens as it can get complicated in the future due to the increasing developments in various aspects. The legal bodies and authorities have to put forward stringent measures to ensure the effective functioning of society by providing rights to all and regulating it based on the circumstances.