The Times of India reports a case that could open up the pandora’s box among bloggers in India. The end result – can we all blog at all? If yes, what can be blog about and what tone should we adopt?
The case is about a 19 year old, Ajith D, who started an Orkut community against Shiv Sena. Looking at the comments in the community, Shiv Sena’s youth wing filed a criminal complaint against Ajith. After an anticipatory bail from the Kerala High Court, Ajith is now knocking the door of our Supreme Court. His point is,
“…the comments made on the blog were mere exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of expression and speech and could not be treated as an offense by police.”
The Supreme Court is however unimpressed with this argument. It says, “We cannot quash criminal proceedings. You are a computer student and you know how many people access internet portals. Hence, if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct.”
So, here are some questions for the court and to other people following this soon-to-be-landmark case.
- Are Indians not allowed to have any (to put it mildly) uncharitable opinions against Shiv Sena (or any political party, for that matter)?
- If no, is it a crime to open that opinion to discussion – in print or online?
- There is a difference between a fact and an opinion. In the NDTV-Chyetanya Kunte case, I’m sure NDTV would have taken specific offense to Kunte quoting wikipedia sources to show how Barkha Dutt was responsible for casualties in the Kargil war. That is a fact wrapped in an opinion and needs to be proved. Here, if Ajith thinks Shiv Sena is harming our country, isn’t it his thought/ opinion?
- Is Ajith wrong in trying to gain support for this opinion via an online community?
- If Ajith, instead of starting a community portal online, gets a few of friends and has a meeting with them discussing these uncharitable opinions against Shiv Sena – is that justified, considering the court’s observation, “you know how many people access internet portals“? Only a few people are privy to Ajith’s opinion, so it should be right, huh?
- Let’s take this one step further. Can a music composer sue a blogger who blogs negatively about the composer’s new soundtrack? That he doesn’t like the music presented in the soundtrack?
- Can a film producer sue a blogger for thinking aloud through the blog that his movie sucked? After all, the producer could claim that this review could be Googled my millions of people and they may form an opinion based on this negative opinion…and not watch the film, right?
- Can Shri Ram Sena sue Nisha Susan because she was instrumental in people sending the Ram Sena, tons of pink chaddis – what Ram Sena may consider derogatory?
- Can <anybody> sue <any blogger> since the blogger doesn’t think positively about <anything> made/ associated with the first <anybody> in question?
You see where this is heading? Welcome to the free-for-all.