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Will The Court Uphold ‘Personal Liberty’ For Kamra As It Did For Arnab?

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Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed, then the pressure cooker i.e. the democracy, may burst”, this is what honourable judge of the Supreme Court D.Y. Chandrachud had said in August 2018. Well, the applicability of this statement in judicial sphere remains exposed in the light of the recent series of contempt cases initiated against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra and earlier against noted lawyer turned activist Prashant Bhushan for scandalizing the apex court.

On one hand, the court stands up for the freedom of speech and expression of selected journalists like Arnab Goswami against the Maharashtra government but on the other, it stifles criticism against itself. One may argue dissent and contempt to be two different words which cannot be equated but contempt happens when a person willfully disobeys a court order (civil contempt) or when they say or do anything that scandalizes, prejudices, or interferes with judicial proceedings and the administration of justice (criminal contempt; what constitutes ‘scandalising’ is undefined in the act though, leaving it up to the judges to interpret).

So what? Shouldn’t the court ensure that its credibility be maintained in the eyes of the general public? Of course, yes.

The onus of establishing trust and respect in the eyes of people needs to be on judiciary itself by pronouncing unbiased judgments based on facts and not on the popular demands as has appeared in the casual attitude of the top court in hearing PILs on significant issues like the constitutionality of annulment of Article 370, arbitrary detention of journalists like Siddique Kappan under draconian Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA).

While Justice D.Y. Chandrachud’s concern for personal liberty is appreciable, the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law to each and every citizen of India appears compromised. At a time when bail pleas of journalists like Mr Kappan, human rights activists like 80-years old Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj are being rejected time and again despite their deteriorating health conditions, Arnab Goswami roams free within a week of the arrest.

This highlights the gulf in access to justice between ‘privileged’ and ‘not-so-privileged’ citizens of the country.

An Arnab Goswami having the support of the establishment gets bail within a week while 84-years old Fr. Stan Swamy, a patient of Parkinson’s disease, is told to wait for 20 days to get a straw and sipper as his hands shake while holding glass due to the ailment. It is in this backdrop that one needs to see the tweets of the political satirist.

As the SC is all set to initiate the contempt proceedings against Kamra post-Attorney-general KK Venugopal’s approval, it will be interesting to see how the top court reacts especially when Justice Chandrachud, while granting bail to Arnab pointed out that although he may not watch his channel, the court is committed to securing his personal liberties.

Drawing parallels from the same, can we expect SC to remain as open to freedom of speech and expression in Kunal’s case as it claimed earlier? Will the court ignore its own criticism and acquit Mr Kamra? Certainly, this case will set precedents in the times when every other person has a smartphone and is putting up their opinions freely. Will SC stand by its own judge’s remark regarding dissent cited above or will quell its own criticism even if it is constructive?

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  1. sumanta roy choudhury

    It is surprising to find that the author has contradicted himself through the post. The author has on the one hand stated that judgment must be unbiased while he himself is trying to create bias by selectively and perversely citing, out of context, a line pronounced by of an Hon’ble Judge of the Supreme Court thereby indicating in advance what should be the judgment/order in an upcoming case. Administration of justice depends on the pleadings made before Hon’ble Courts and the evidences brought before it and not on unreasonable sentimental notes and parallels drawn with similar sounding cases., which every writer attempting to write something about the Hon’be Courts should, at least, be aware of.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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