Title: Blasphemy and free speech: need for a balance between public order and right to free speech

Authors: Arvind Kurian Abraham; Arpita Sengupta

Addresses: The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, 12 LB Block, Ambedkar Bhawan, Sector III, Salt Lake, Kolkata, 700098, India ' The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, 12 LB Block, Ambedkar Bhawan, Sector III, Salt Lake, Kolkata, 700098, India

Abstract: The extent of freedom of speech and expression is a contentious issue in most legal jurisdictions, especially its relation to irreverent or blasphemous speech. The Indian Government and the judiciary have often justified the restrictions on this right in order to maintain public order. However, in a democracy, such restrictions must be placed in exceptional situations when other methods to prevent the breach of public order are exhausted or inadequate. The freedom of speech and expression includes the right to dissent and critique any set of ideas, irrespective of whether they carry secular or religious identities. The failure of the Indian state to use its powers of restriction in a sparse manner only recognises the axiomatic right of fundamentalist groups to breach peace each time views distasteful to them are expressed. In order to protect the cardinal constitutional principle of free speech, it is important for parliament to repeal the criminal laws against blasphemous speech and the judiciary to adopt a narrow application of the public order restriction.

Keywords: freedom of speech; blasphemy; public order; hate speech; right to free speech; India; blasphemous speech.

DOI: 10.1504/IJHRCS.2016.078301

International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, 2016 Vol.4 No.2, pp.138 - 152

Received: 09 Apr 2016
Accepted: 10 Apr 2016

Published online: 10 Aug 2016 *

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