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By Kanika Rangray

In the Constitution of India, there are few phrases which define to us our fundamental rights. One of these phrases talks about the “Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.”

This right is also known as Article 19 of the Indian constitution and in basic terms it says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

But one question has repeatedly and frequently emerged—is this fundamental right actually implemented or is it just few words written on a piece of paper in a book called “The Constitution of India.”

Viewer discretion not sought

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The most recent incident due to which this question highlighted itself again is the ban on porn websites demanded by the government. The ban on websites which relate to pornography was put forward giving the reason that such websites are one of the reasons behind the increasing rate of crime against women and children in the country.

The long and short of it means that you’re telling an adult what he can and cannot watch on the net, even if it is within the four walls of his room. This would call for encroaching not only upon the right of freedom of speech and expression but also on the right of personal liberty.

There are also other instances which question the grounds on which we claim to the world that we are the world’s largest democracy, in which all citizens have equal fundamental rights—the right to speak for themselves, the right to express our opinions with full freedom.

This move of the government fuelled quite an uproar throughout the country and provoked a nationwide debate about censorship and freedom.

Due to the continuous criticisms faced by this action, the government had to bow down and lifted the ban partially by lifting the ban on “sites that do not promote child porn.”

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Fifty shades blurred

India’s censor board banned the release of a censored or toned-down version of the US film Fifty Shades of Grey. The erotic movie, which was an international box-office hit, was turned down by the censor board despite several expletives and nude scenes edited out.

Literature buried, never to be discovered

In 2014 Penguin India was made to destroy all unsold copies of ‘The Hindu: An Alternative History’, authored by Sanskrit scholar Wendy Doniger, in India. The destruction was done on the court’s orders which were in response to a petition filed by Shiksha Bachao Andolan or the Save Education Movement, a Hindu fundamentalist group which deemed the book insulting and threatening to Hindu culture.

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These self-appointed guardians of Hindu religion deemed the author’s treatment of ancient Hindu myths as human creations rather than divine truth, insulting and also called it a crime.

Paint all black

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Famous Indian painter, the late M.F. Hussain, was forced into self-imposed exile in 2006, after his canvasses—some of which depicted Hindu deities naked—were vandalised by right-wing Hindus, once again self-imposed guardians of Hindu orthodoxy.

Such a long journey forced to end

An award-winning 1991 novel, Such a Long Journey, authored by Rohinton Mistry was removed from the University of Mumbai’s curriculum, after the late Bal Thackeray, leader of the rightwing Shiv Sena, objected to how he and his party were depicted in the fictional level.

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Say no to Facebook

And speaking of Bal Thackeray, it is essential to talk about the Facebook controversy which erupted after his death.

Near riots took place in Mumbai because of a facebook post after his death, which questioned the Mumbai bandh which was declared to mourn the death of Bal Thackeray.

The girl, who made the post, simply said that we do not mourn the death day of martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, freedom fighters who earned respect and love by their actions. But a Mumbai bandh was called to mourn the death of a person who was respected and loved because people were afraid of him, afraid of the consequences of raising a single voice against him.

This was her opinion and she voiced it out loud, but the consequences were such that now you even question what you have written before you click the “post” button on your account.

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After recalling all these incidents above, is it even wise to write out this article, is there still the freedom of speech and expression to question the implementation of Article 19 of the constitution or has that also been curbed.

Freedom with “reasonable restrictions”

In a bid to curb blatant opinions being voiced out without care of the feelings of a person or a group of people or a community, and without paying any heed to consequences, the Indian constitution introduced Article 19(2) which cites certain ‘reasonable restrictions’ to the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Under these restrictions, the legislature is allowed to monitor free speech in the following conditions:

  • Restrictions can be put on free speech if it is in the interest of the security of the state.
  • The State can put reasonable restrictions if it could in any way hamper friendly relations with foreign states.
  • To maintain public order- this means public peace, safety and tranquillity. This amendment was called after the Romesh Thapar vs State of Madras case in 1950 where the supreme court said, “Freedom of speech and of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations, for without free political discussion no public education is possible.”
  • Decency and morality: In the Indian Constitution, the word ‘indecency’ is equivalent to ‘obscenity’ and according to this restriction the State can charge “if the tendency of the matter charged as obscene can deprave and corrupt the minds which are open to such immoral influences.”
  • Contempt of Court: It refers to civil contempt or criminal contempt of courts, and no attempts should be made to impair the administration of justice.
  • Defamation: This restriction prevents any person from making any statement that injures the reputation of another. It has also been criminalised in India by inserting it into Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Incitement to an offense: This restriction prohibits a person from making any statement that incites people to commit offense.
  • Sovereignty and integrity of India: This prohibits anyone from making statements that challenge the sovereignty and integrity of India.

After reading through all eight “reasonable restrictions” mentioned in Article 19(2), what remains—can we call it freedom of speech or should it be freedom of guarded speech.


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Indian astronomers have found an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal

Indian astronomers have found an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emission than normal, equivalent to more than 10 trillion of the sun, and located five billion light years away that could help probe how particles behave under intense gravity and acceleration to the speed of light.

It could help study the role of strong gravity and acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction and evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

Every galaxy in the universe is believed to host a supermassive black hole at its centre. In some galaxies, the black hole is actively devouring a large amount of material and shooting a jet of plasma almost at the speed of light towards us. These are called blazars.

OJ 287 belongs to a class of blazars known as BL Lacertae objects which show very rapid and large amplitude flux variations but barely discernible emission line features.

This class of sources emit in the whole electromagnetic spectrum, a rather uncommon phenomenon which requires extreme physical conditions. Hence, a study of such sources tells us about the behaviour of matter in an extreme gravitational field where it is difficult for light to escape from the vicinity of the black hole.

Astronomers at Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, have been monitoring one such black hole system named 'OJ 287' since 2015. This source shows a repeated optical brightness enhancement almost every 12 years.

"The repeated optical enhancement makes OJ 287 very intriguing as this class of sources does not show any repeating features in flux variations. The repeated optical enhancement made the researchers believe that the system hosts a binary black hole," said a release from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 2020, the source was very bright at optical and X-ray bands with X-ray flux more than 10 times the normal (non-active phase) flux. This flare was very different as it was not expected in models proposed for this source and thus, indicated a more complex system and physical conditions.

Investigating the extreme brightness shown by OJ 287 at optical and X-ray bands, astronomers led by Pankaj Kushwaha and Alok C. Gupta reported the source in a completely new spectral state.

The team argued that this change of state holds clues to the researcher's quest to understand how matter behaves in very strong gravity and how it accelerates the particle to almost the speed of light -- a feat that is out of the scope of even the most advanced CERN accelerator.

The research published in 'The Astrophysical Journal' tracked the details of changes in optical to the X-ray emission spectrum of the source with time from 2017 to 2020 -- after the second brightest X-ray flare of the source. It revealed how the source gradually started to change its spectral behaviour from mid-2018 to the new spectral state in 2020.

The study included data recorded by the ground-based facility operated by Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, operated Mount Abu observing facility in near infra-red bands and the space-based NASA's satellites -- the Niels Gherel Swift satellite at optical, UV and X-rays with gamma ray data from the Fermi satellite, the release added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Science, NASA, Satellites, Black Hole, Gravity, India

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