Citizens' Issues
SC may test constitutionality of defamation laws on Dr Subramanian Swamy's petition.

Dr Swamy's petition is with regard to the unconstitutionality of Section 499 and Section 500 of the IPC, because, as he has pleaded, they are against the spirit of Article 19 (2).

 

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice U U Lalit and Justice Dipak Misra, stayed criminal defamation proceedings against Subramanian Swamy on Thursday.

 

Subramanian Swamy was facing five defamation cases filed by the Tamil Nadu State Government for his comments against the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha.


While staying the defamation proceedings in the Chennai Sessions Court, the SC also sent notices to the Tamil Nadu Government and the Union of India.


Dr Swamy's petition is with regard to the unconstitutionality of Section 499 and Section 500 of the IPC, because, as he has pleaded, they are against the spirit of Article 19 (2).


“It is the Petitioner's argument that the law is violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India and is not saved by any exception, in as much as, it has degenerated into a tool of harassment,” Dr Swamy had pleaded, in his criticism of the Colonial era law.


In 1962, the SC had read down the definition and scope of Sedition, which was another Colonial relic.  In the case cited by Dr Swamy, R  Rajagopal  alias  RR  Gopal  and  Another  vs. State of Tamil Nadu  and Others (1994) 6 SCC 632, the SC had said, “In all this discussion, we may clarify, we have not gone into the impact of Article 19(1)(a)  read  with  clause  (2)  thereof  on Sections  499  and  500  of  the  Indian  Penal Code.  That may have to await a proper case.”


If as a result of this case and Dr Swamy's pleadings, the SC does read down this case, a seriously misused tool would become unavailable to the powers that be and as such, it would be a significant victory for the freedom of expression.

 

The Order is appended below:

 

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Book Review of 'War: What is it good for?

War makes the Sate; the State makes the peace, says Ian Morris

 

Ian Morris, the distinguished and best-selling historian, argues in his book War: What is it good for? That while war amounts to mass murder, in perhaps what is the greatest paradox in history, war has made humanity safer and richer. Other options would have been worse.

 

He bases his thesis on two core arguments. The first argument is that wars, almost always, led to larger and more organised societies that have actually reduced the possibility that their members would die violently. In the Stone Age, communities were tiny; but because the populations were small, there was steady low-level violence which took a huge toll. “By most estimates 10-20% of all the people who lived in the Stone Age societies died in the hands of other humans.”

 

Beginning about 10,000 years ago in some parts of the world, then spreading across the planet, the winners of wars incorporated the losers into larger societies. The rulers developed stronger governments which meant suppressing violence. Morris says, in his chapter on Rome, “It makes sense to suppress violence within the community. Murdered subjects cannot serve in the army or pay taxes, and fields laid waste in feuds between villages produce no crops.” Then he goes on to say: “Rulers in effect use force to keep the peace and then charge their subjects for that service.” Very depressing; but the consequence was that rates of violent deaths fell by 90% between Stone Age and 20th Century.

 

The second argument of Morris is that wars were not only the worst ways imaginable to create larger peaceful societies but the only way humans have found. People hardly ever gave up their right to kill and impoverish each other, unless forced. Certain defeats in war were the only time they did.

 

In Morris’ scheme of things, there are two main factors that define how we have progressed: peace (whatever that means) and the number of violent deaths per capita.

 

His conjectures on these metrics are based on excavated skeletons. In Europe, claims Morris, it is easier to find reasonably certain evidence of the trends of violent death rate; but, in India and China, it is next to impossible to find such evidence.

 

Morris begins his book by walking about Rome wondering what a great place it was to live in, at least in the urban centres. He highlights Rome’s scorched earth wars and points out that, in the aftermath of these wars, came peace and prosperity. With Rome, he clubs the Mauryan Empire and the Chinese empires. He argues that the invisible hand is close to nothing without the invisible fist. The markets of Rome and latter-day Europe were built on the backing of a strong invisible fist.

 

The greatest wars in history have been about one group wanting to secure the resources of another, driven by power, ideology and greed. As Carl Von Clausewitz, the military theorist and Prussian general, who Morris quotes quite often, said, “War is politik by other means.” Which would mean that war is an expression, means and method; by itself, war is neither good nor bad.

 

After the age of the ancient empires, Morris argues that war was largely destructive for over 15 centuries. To discount the wars that failed to be ‘good’ for humanity and focusing on those which, by Morris’ standards, were good, is a weakness. The consolidation of empires in the colonial era was largely a matter of a transfer of wealth from the majority of the world to the minority concentrated in Europe. Manmade famines, wars of subjugation and the creation of the Third World are its legacies.

 

If the wars waged by the Roman republic were good, what about America, the recent global power? The Nazis liked to think that the horrors of the holocaust were necessary to achieve a higher ideal. America has gone to war with similar, specious moral arguments.

 

About the Iraq War, Morris writes that, in 2006, “bloodied by reverses in Iraq, the US Army adopted a new counter-insurgency doctrine… By 2009, violent deaths had fallen...” Far from it. The US had to withdraw from Iraq, leaving the country in a condition far worse than before. The price has been huge: tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and, now, the rise of ISIS. The Iraqi society is not better organised after the war than it was before. Neither is Afghanistan.

 

The book puts together enormous details about war which will keep you gripped. But, while his erudition is formidable, the author’s thesis leaves you unconvinced. After all, his grand theory links prosperity, peace and war, relying on one realised version of history as if it were the only version possible.

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