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Moral policing overdrive

A holistic and comprehensive reading of the current state of our constitutional jurisprudence would demonstrate that the right to privacy is firmly embedded in our constitutional scheme of affairs and is coterminous with the right to liberty enshrined in our constitution. In theory, each citizen <g data-gr-id="34">should to</g> be entitled to his or her privacy, subject to what is necessary to ensure the security of citizens, including their well-being. 

This, however, is a circle that is not easy to close off and becomes a tricky infinite loop of sorts legally speaking. A carte blanche denial of privacy will defeat democracy, but so will an absolute right to privacy. <g data-gr-id="32">Moreover</g> it may not be apparent at first go but the right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression are inextricably linked. The show-cause notice to TV news channels raises a fundamental question: Does a private citizen or individual have the right to criticise a constitutional authority such as the judiciary or the President for acts done in the discharge of their public duties? 

Former Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaising has clearly asserted that while the judiciary has an official monopoly over decisions of innocence and guilt, nothing prevents ordinary citizens from reading a judgment and deciding for themselves on its rights and wrongs. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting cannot fight surrogate battles on behalf of the President and the Supreme Court of India. It has no such powers. Long years ago, the Supreme Court said the <g data-gr-id="38">air waves</g> belong to us all, and that free speech cannot be curtailed by the denial of a license to broadcast. According to certain political commentators, this is something the current government is trying to do. 

The present Narendra Modi government’s economic machinations might have had little to no impact on the economy. Where the Modi-inspired model of governance has had a significant and perhaps not inadvertent impact is in the private lives of India’s citizens. In a recent raid near Mumbai’s Madh Island, the Maharashtra Police belligerently rounded up 40-odd couples from hotels in Madh Island and Aksa. They were finally allowed to go after 5 hours, Rs 1,200 fine and unlimited humiliation. 

Such a move, some have argued, is a new low in a series of moves which have been carefully orchestrated to dictate the civics of morality or preferred style of citizenship. Let’s not forget that Maharashtra now has a BJP government which has already banned beef and a few months ago were also contemplating an alcohol ban. This arrest of consenting couples comes close on the heels of the regime at the Centre deciding to ban 857 pornographic sites. A ban, which was later revoked, but one would argue not before it set alarm bells ringing within civil society. What is repressive about the intervention of the government into the personal lives of Indian citizens is that all of this is being done under the garb of increasing security and safety while curbing sexuality and sedition. Is the regime trying to create a new brand of civics? Do projects on yoga, cleaning the Ganga, cleaning offices and streets supposedly go hand in hand with cleaning up and sanitising the private lives of citizens, whether it be engineering a haphazard beef ban or banning porn and arresting consenting adults for indulging in sex? And why the overt attempt to censure news media? 

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