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The “Right to Reputation”



Right to Reputation

In a celebrity judgment, the Supreme Court extensively dwelt on “concept of reputation “i.e.” right to reputation”, as being a facet of article 21 of constitution. The apex court emphasized on fundamentals of human values and dignity of life, quoted from Bhagwat Gita, Holy Quran, Holy Bible and “Subhashita Ratna Bhandagara” – a collection of 10000 wisdom saying from Sanskrit literature, compiled by Sh. Kanshi Nath Sharma (from internet). The court also relied on thoughts by William Shakespeare and Greek philosopher Socrates, international covenants and perception of various courts including India to buttress that life does not connote animal existence. We must acknowledge the tremendous efforts and elaborate discussions in this lucid judgment, even from academic point of view. In a sense it teaches the philosophy of life.

Undisputedly, the reputation of a person is an accepted universal principle, having wider social implication but it can’t negate freedom of expression. Equally, vice versa would be true. Over the years radical social transformation has taken place. If we look back, during the era of dominance of Emperors, the freedom of expression was unknown. The words of King were final and unchallenged. Mostly, one who raised voice was crucified and a reign of suppression and oppression prevailed. But in a contemporary civilized society it is totally unimaginable.

Our memories of atrocities, torture and oppression during British rule have not faded, so far. Undisputedly, concept of freedom of expression was neither a rule nor practice acceptable then. One believes or not, the laws were enacted with preconceived notion to protect her majesty. The philosophy underlying the freedom of expression had no space, but became a reality only on the enforcement of “The Constitution of India”, unique in many respects, as it protects basic rights and confers freedom, without conflict. Contrarily during pre-constitutional period, there was no concept of dignity of life for a common man, except for a privileged class, who surrendered to her majesty’s dictates or accepted concessions.

How can we ignore the functional characteristics of a system, which has essentially to be understood and a determining factor? The origin of section 499/500 IPC was the mindset of British government to suppress every justifiable and legitimate voice of decent. Call it draconian or not, but certainly it obstructs free and undeterred flow of expression. We can’t be oblivious of a situation, when an author or any one speaks in public, has a feeling of fear in the backdrop of his mind that tomorrow he may be prosecuted and would face the rigmarole of court procedures, for years and years. Does it not amount to having chilling effect or make it unreasonable? The test is the state of mind which prevents or makes him think twice, whether to express or not. Some journalists may be bold and courageous, but some may be reluctant for logistic reasons. Legally, on being summoned, he is tagged as an accused, required to furnish bail bond and face unending trial. There is no quick remedy, except to wait till defense stage to invoke benefit of explanation to section 499 IPC and prove truth coupled with public good. How many can generate strength to bear humiliation, even in genuine cases? In fact, visualizing the impact even genuine publications will be cautiously avoided to defeat public right to information.

The reputation and dignity of life are the facets of article 21 of the constitution. If a journalist writes a piece of article to safeguard the dignity of a woman and exposes some individuals to bring truth in public domain, should he/she face the rigors of unending trial, a wider question to deliberate. On similarly principle, can all statements made during public discourse be subjected to prosecution? Although, the court has fairly tried to strike a balance between the two parallel rights but many questions are still unanswered.

The freedom of expression is on higher pedestal, is the inevitable conclusion of following court observation:
“Emphasis has been laid on the fact that dissonant and discordant expressions are to be treated as view-points with objectivity and such expression of views and ideas being necessary for growth of democracy are to be zealously protected.”

The debate is not about right being absolute as no one can claim, but to express fearless. Certainly scandalous and malicious imputation need dealt sternly. There may be issues debatable in public interest or in discharge of a duty, can such voice be throttled. Unfortunately, two valuable rights overlap substantially and the existing structure is incapable to segregate two pillars, without causing prejudice to either.

The complex and complicated questions of constitutional interpretation and balancing of such fundamental rights do arise but do we have a mechanism to appreciate issues appropriately. The court consciously observed that judicial process should not be an instrument of oppression or needless harassment. Further a private complainant cannot be allowed proceedings as a vendetta to harass. While laying down twin tests, the court was conscious of the procedural aspect and its inadequacy. Perhaps to fill the gap heavy onus has been placed on the magistracy, to duly scrutinize complaint by judicial application of mind and obviate complaints as vendetta to harass without specific guidelines to mitigate hardship. But how for it will be workable time alone will tell. Serious doubts do arise, since we can’t expect too much from our existing system.

Be that as it may, section 499 defines defamation and the exceptions culled out there from will narrow down the definition. Exceptions do control the definition; how can it be categorized as a defense during trial. Judicial application of mind would mandatorily consider scope of defamation, without ignoring exceptions. Now that the magistrate has to take all relevant facts and circumstances into consideration even at the stage of summoning he cannot be oblivious of exceptions. It is a challenge ahead, rather than quick remedy.

By K.C. Mittal

(The author is a former Chairman, Bar Council of India and former President, Delhi High Court Bar Association)


Rising urbanization likely cause of heavy rainfall in South: Research

Their findings were reported in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Royal Meteorological Society’ on May 18, 2020.




IMD heavy rains predict

Hyderabad, May 26 : A team of researchers at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) have discovered a link between heavy rainfall in several parts of south India and a growing urbanisation in the region.

A team led by Prof. Karumuri Ashok from the Centre for Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Hyderabad, examined whether a common factor, the changing ‘land use land cover’ (LULC) in these states, has any implications for the heavy rainfall events.

Over the past few years, many heavy rainfall events have been reported in cities of south India. Prominent among them are the extreme rainfall that created havoc in Chennai and nearby areas of Tamil Nadu in December 2015, the heavy rainfall over Hyderabad and adjoining regions in Telangana in September 2016, and the extreme rainfall event in Kerala in August 2018.

Notably, these three states differ in their geographical locations, and also the season in which they receive rainfall. Kerala, located on the southwest Indian coast off the Arabian Sea receives heavy rainfall during the summer monsoon from June-September.

Tamil Nadu, off the Bay of Bengal, receives rainfall mainly during the northeast monsoon (October-December). The land-locked state Telangana receives the bulk of its annual rainfall during the summer monsoon season.

A UoH statement stated that their study showed the precipitation during heavy rainfall events in these states has significantly increased from 2000 to 2017. Using the LULC data from ISRO, and by conducting 2 km resolution simulation experiments of twelve heavy rainfall events over the states, the researchers found distinct LULC changes in these three states, which led to higher surface temperatures and a deeper and moist boundary layer. These in turn caused a relatively higher convective available potential energy and, consequently, heavier rainfall.

The study also suggests that increasing urbanization in Telangana and Tamil Nadu is likely to enhance the rainfall during the heavy rainfall events by 20%-25%. Prof. Ashok feels that improving the density of observational rainfall and other weather parameters may help in forecasting extreme rainfalls at city level.

Their findings were reported in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Royal Meteorological Society’ on May 18, 2020.

Prof. K. Ashok and his Ph.D. student Mr. A. Boyaj who is the first author, are both from the Centre for Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Hyderabad. The work was done in collaboration with Prof. Ibrahim Hoteit and Dr Hari Prasad Dasari of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia.

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Corona Karma: The Mythology of Illness




A few years ago, my mother had a severe case of shingles, a disease that causes the patient’s nerve endings to become sore from a pathogen that is moderately contagious. Its source is the vestigial presence of the varicella-zoster virus lying dormant in the subject’s body, invariably from a childhood case of chickenpox. I had, of course, researched the illness before I visited my mother, but no sooner had I entered the gated community of apartments where my parents lived then, than I was informed of my mother’s diagnosis. “Mata ka prakop,” the neighbors called it, shaking their heads disapprovingly, from side to side. My mother had invited the wrath of the Goddess.

Every culture has gone through the many stages of making meaning of dreaded diseases. Often the deities devise ways of conveying their displeasure to the people inflicted with an inexplicable phenomenon. This is true not just of “primitive” societies, but of scientifically “advanced” cultures as well. Remember the argument of the 1980s and 90s about AIDS in America, and how it was God’s way of punishing homosexual men for their ungodly ways. It seems every new disease has a karmic connection!

So when we conjecture about how some people may have gotten infected with the Corona virus thus: “kyapata, unke karma honge,” (“who knows, this might be a result of their karma) I am reminded of the “wrath of the Goddess,” meted out to my mother.

My problem with using myths to give meaning, stems from the fact thatevenlong after we have found a vaccine and a cure, the mythicdimensions of the pathogen will remain lodged in our collective unconscious. And when in the future stray instances of the illness flare up, whenwe, as a society, are under stress, vested interests will be able to generate panic and fear among the people by just tapping into our unconscious. Religiosity is a crude instrument of ideology.

In 1978 Susan Sontag, an important cultural critic gave a talk, “Illness as Metaphor,” in which she contrasted tuberculosis and cancer by citing countless examples of the representation of these illnesses in literary, operatic, theatrical, and poetic texts. Tuberculosis, Sontag argued, was the disease of the 19th century, of poverty, poor labour conditions, or a life wasted in leisure or unrealized genius. Cancer by contrast, was the disease of the 20th century, a moral contagion, a hostile takeover bid, that required a militaristic response. Extending this analogy, I want to argue that the Corona virus is shaping up to be the disease of this present century, already saturated with metaphors of geo-politics on the world stage. Here in India, it is a campaign to corralan out of control, leaking, irrepressible pollutant, that must be plugged.

President Donald Trump’s effort at branding the pathogen as the Wuhan or the Chinese virus is being played out as a protracted chess gamebetween two superpowers, with the WHO cast as the adversarial Queen by both sides.

In India, the Corona virus pandemic is being “treated” (no pun intended) as a more virulent and mutated strain of both tuberculosis and cancer. It is an insidious, surreptitious malware that is being countered with predictable software patches deployed in emergencies, but with no long-term strategy for the containment, management, or prospective cure for the patient. People suspected of carrying the virus, are being exiled rather than given refuge in a sanatorium. Economically vulnerable migrant workers are being treated as though they were children playing truant or escaped convicts. Police forces in virtually all the states where these workers are travelling have used tactics of mob control more than the benevolent practices of relief agencies.

I cannot help but wonder if this is not a perverse response to the political agitations that were gaining strength earlier this year. The virus has become a metaphor for out of control people: citizens determined to define citizenship in progressive rather than punitive determinants; and workers of the informal sector responding to a sputtering economy. When markets cannot regulate the demand/supply and price of onions, even the person on the street knows how to read the signs. As in other authoritarian regimes, the lockdown appears designed to function more as a gag order than a prophylactic measure against a pandemic.

When the metaphor of karma is used loosely to explain the apparently random patterns in which the disease is spreading, in a society where cleanliness and uncleanliness are indelible markers of caste, we run the risk of creating a new caste of Corona untouchables. Already the (conspiracy) theory that the virus came to India through the Tablighi Jamaat convention attendees in Nizamuddin, New Delhi, has tinged the virus with a communal hue.

Let us return to the origins to the Corona virus’s journey from bats to humans. How can a virus found in bats find its way into the human eco-system? It is because habitat and biodiversity loss have diminished the spatial distance between humans and wildlife. The Coronus virus is conjectured to have come from people eating “bush meat”. What is bush meat and why do people eat it? It is the meat of small, semi-wild animals that live in the shadows of the urban sprawl and are relatively easy to catch. This meat is less expensive than farm raised poultry and meat. It is also not regulated for hygiene, freshness, and disease. I would never know what the Civet Cat on my plate, ate, where it lived, or how it died. Actually, we don’t even know whether it is cat!

The extraction of natural resources through mining the earth and logging the forests, without any thought to replenishing them, has left vast stretches of the earth barren. The planting of monocultural crops has caused an imbalance in the natural eco-systems that kept a natural balance between harmless and beneficial viruses and other microorganisms. Further, the unchecked growth of urban sprawl and the attendant pollution has compromised the repair work that trees were meant to do.

Is it any wonder that the rage of Mother Earth has been unleashed upon us? “Mata ka prakop,” is punishment for our collective karma.

By: Poonam Arora

Ph.D., has until recently been a professor in the Humanities, focusing on the liberal arts. She is now a Delhi based writer. She can be reached at [email protected] (The views expressed are personal of the author, who retains the copyright)

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Stranded in India and want to fly out? Here’s all you need to know

The stranded individuals making the cut will be flown in the same non-scheduled flights which will be used to bring back stranded Indians from various countries.



Coronaviurs in China Outbreak

New Delhi, May 24 : Six days after the beginning of lockdown 4.0, the Indian government on Sunday came up with new Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) to fly out those who are stranded in India due to the lockdown.

All such individuals have to apply with the Ministry of Civil Aviation or agencies designated by it, to start with. However, the government has made it clear that only those people will be allowed who are either citizens of those countries that they are travelling to or hold a visa of that country for a duration of a year, or are green card or OCI card holders.

Meanwhile, if there is a case of a medical emergency or detain the family, Indians too can travel abroad taking advantage of this window, provided they have a visa for at least six months.

The stranded individuals making the cut will be flown in the same non-scheduled flights which will be used to bring back stranded Indians from various countries.

Meanwhile if any seafarers are keen to take up job opportunities abroad, they too can avail this facility, provided the names are cleared by the Shipping Ministry.

However, even those who qualify will not necessarily be able to be flown out. It ultimately depends on the country they are travelling to and their recent guidelines of admission of foreign passengers. Only if that box is ticked, will the Civil Aviation Ministry confirm their ticket, says the SOP.

Meanwhile, no prize for guessing that the cost of the flight will have to be paid by the passengers because it’s not an evacuation exercise. Also the passengers will be subjected to necessary medical screening before they can board the flight where only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed. While inside, baic health hygiene and precautions like wearing a mask will be compulsory.

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