Kerala Kaumudi Online
Tuesday, 16 July 2024 5.18 PM IST

SC upholds 'Sattai' Durai Murugan's right to speak; big jolt to M K Stalin


Freedom of speech is being adorned with new definitions daily, and it tells much about the time we live. It is the basic probity to judge oneself before spurting sickening statements against anyone. One should not depend on the shield of freedom of speech as a guarantee to denigrate others. Even courts have intervened before when the freedom of speech went ‘below the belt’ evoking slander fest in public.

At the same time, one of the most remarkable interventions was made by the Supreme Court the other day.

“If all people who raise allegations on YouTube are to be arrested, how many people would you jail?” the supreme court was responding to the Madras High Court decision that revoked the bail of 'Sattai' Durai Murugan, who was arrested in 2021 in a case of making defamatory remarks against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. The SC later allowed bail to Murugan.

“Who is the authority deciding what is defamatory and not? The complainant is also a DMK worker. When a believer in one ideology expresses an opinion about another political belief, who decides the defamation? There are legal ways to get a defamatory reference removed. It also has technical facilities. Instead, how can you decide to silence the critics?” This was another question raised by SC regarding the petition filed. The court also rejected the request to restrain Murugan from making such remarks again. Murugan is an activist of Naam-Thamizhar Party, a pro-Tamil Eelam political party.

Social media is now passing through a transitional phase. Every citizen has the right to express any opinion which is not contrary to national interest, affects national security, or is not intended to create religious strife or riot. However, if a person makes an allegation of corruption against a public servant, the latter can approach the court.

The onus is on the person making the allegation to produce evidence to support his allegation. Courts have taken strong action against those who have made baseless allegations. An opinion is not an accusation. Opinions cannot be substantiated. That is why Durai Murugan's bail was restored. These cyberspaces are free-expression platforms for ordinary citizens.

It is equal to the freedom of one person to express his opinion about another, and the freedom of the latter not to be deprived of his personality and dignity. While the Supreme Court has asked who decides what expression is defamatory, it is up to each individual to set boundaries in their verbal harangue.

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