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Human rights violations inside EU

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What is the Ostrich Protocol?
How the EU member states play ostrich when it comes to human rights violations inside EU?

The Treaty on the European Union, in its current format also known as the Lisbon Treaty, as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights claim to establish an area of freedom, security and justice, founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights[1]. That sounds perfect. After centuries of inhuman treatment of people very often by their own governments, culminating in the tyrannies of communism and Nazism in the 20th century, EU citizens should be able to feel safe from brutal attacks and illegal operations of a violent state, if not ….If they are not refugees from another EU member state and they do not try to look for protection because they were subject in their own state to political persecution, inhuman treatment or even torture.

The Geneva Convention about status of and asylum for refugees, persons subject to political persecution, is one of the great international achievements in the field of human rights. The European Union as a successful project of peace, freedom and justice promises in Art.18 of its Charter that “the right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention..[2]” But why is this guarantee denied when the asylum seeker comes from an EU country?

The EU Treaty consists not only of the main articles, but also of some so-called “protocols” which are “annexed” to the Treaty by the “high contracting parties”, i.e. the Member States. One of these Protocols is PROTOCOL (No 24) ON ASYLUM FOR NATIONALS OF MEMBER STATES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION which reads as follows:

The high contracting parties,

WHEREAS, in accordance with Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights,

WHEREAS pursuant to Article 6(3) of the Treaty on European Union, fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, constitute part of the Union’s law as general principles,

WHEREAS the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to ensure that in the interpretation and application of Article 6, paragraphs (1) and (3) of the Treaty on European Union the law is observed by the European Union,

WHEREAS pursuant to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union any European State, when applying to become a Member of the Union, must respect the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,

BEARING IN MIND that Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union establishes a mechanism for the suspension of certain rights in the event of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of those values,

RECALLING that each national of a Member State, as a citizen of the Union, enjoys a special status and protection which shall be guaranteed by the Member States in accordance with the provisions of Part Two of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

BEARING IN MIND that the Treaties establish an area without internal frontiers and grant every citizen of the Union the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States,

WISHING to prevent the institution of asylum being resorted to for purposes alien to those for which it is intended,

WHEREAS this Protocol respects the finality and the objectives of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the status of refugees,

HAVE AGREED UPON the following provisions, which shall be annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:

Sole Article

Given the level of protection of fundamental rights and freedoms by the Member States of the European Union, Member States shall be regarded as constituting safe countries of origin in respect of each other for all legal and practical purposes in relation to asylum matters. Accordingly, any application for asylum made by a national of a Member State may be taken into consideration or declared admissible for processing by another Member State only in the following cases:

(a) if the Member State of which the applicant is a national proceeds after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, availing itself of the provisions of Article 15 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to take measures derogating in its territory from its obligations under that Convention;

(b) if the procedure referred to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union has been initiated and until the Council, or, where appropriate, the European Council, takes a decision in respect thereof with regard to the Member State of which the applicant is a national;

(c) if the Council has adopted a decision in accordance with Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union in respect of the Member State of which the applicant is a national or if the European Council has adopted a decision in accordance with Article 7(2) of that Treaty in respect of the Member State of which the applicant is a national;

(d) if a Member State should so decide unilaterally in respect of the application of a national of another Member State; in that case the Council shall be immediately informed; the application shall be dealt with on the basis of the presumption that it is manifestly unfounded without affecting in any way, whatever the cases may be, the decision-making power of the Member State.”

After very nice introducing words about “fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms constitute part of the Union’s law as general principles … and any European State, when applying to become a Member of the Union, must respect the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,” the disgraceful truth comes at the end: whatever happened or could happen with the applicant in his country, “the application shall be dealt with on the basis of the presumption that it is manifestly unfounded”!

This Protocol (no 24) stands not only in contradiction to itself and the idea of the European Union and its fundamental documents, Treaty and Charter on Fundamental Rights, but is also a severe violation of international law. The Geneva Refugee Convention[3], the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[4] and the European Convention on Human Rights[5] have to be respected by the European Union which should not be “a superstate where international laws which have protected individuals for decades are discarded.”[6] It is the disgraceful “ostrich protocol no.24” which should be discarded immediately by the European Council.

We certainly don’t live in a perfect world. Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Conventions against torture and inhuman treatment and other International binding covenants human rights violations, torture, illegal detentions, extrajudicial executions etc. are still part of the daily life of too many people. Millions of people are leaving their home country to escape from political persecution, police and military brutality and other unbelievable atrocities[7]. To protect such people the international community set up already in 1951 the Geneva Refugee Convention, the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states, in particular to grant “asylum” to refugees. All member countries of the European Union are party to the Geneva Convention. In addition the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights states in its Art.18 that “the right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community”. That looks like the Union is endorsing international obligations of its member states under the Geneva Convention.

Therefore anybody subject to political persecution, police brutality, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, illegal detention, unfair trial etc. should at least get asylum in an EU member country. Fortunately the description of the sad situation of millions of people does not apply to the European Union and its member states. And certainly everybody should desire that this situation does not even apply to a single individual within the European Union. But, is there a guarantee? Or is it just wishful thinking that there will be this guarantee? Could it be that “the high contracting parties” and there representatives, i.e. the heads of state and government of the EU member states base their decisions on wishful thinking? Most likely not, therefore we have to ask what else could be the reason for them to “play ostrich” and put, metaphorically speaking, their heads into the sand for not seeing the human rights violation by a partner state in the Union? Among people who know the background of the evolving of Protocol no.24 it is also called the “Aznar Protocol”[8]. As clearly stated by an expert of UNHCR, Karen Landgren, protocol no. 24 (and its assumption that “Member States shall be regarded as constituting safe countries of origin in respect of each other for all legal and practical purposes in relation to asylum matters”) “is the product of a political deal, supported by Spain as the initiator and all those countries who needed the support of Spain in other EU matters”[9].

That Protocol (no 24) had a purely political purpose is also demonstrated by the fact that it refers to nationals of a member state as citizens of the EU. That means that the protocol and therefore the automatic rejection of an asylum request does not apply to non-nationals of an EU member state who seek asylum because of persecution in a member state, for example stateless persons with residence in the EU. What is the reason for discrimination of EU citizens by the European Union? As described by Karen Landgren, Protocol (no24) is not based on legal ground but on pure political decision.

If one believes that political persecution, police brutality, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, illegal detention, unfair trial could not happen on EU territory one should look to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and to the reports of Council of Europe’s Commission for the Prevention of Torture. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a report of MP Marieluise Beck, member of the German delegation to the Assembly, on “Threats to the Rule of Law in Council of Europe Member States” including also members of the European Union[10]. The report, based on facts, realizes politically-motivated prosecutions of political opponents, journalists and civil society activists as well as cover-ups of crimes committed or instigated and organized by politicians! “Serious problems related to the rule of law exist in several member states”. Politically motivated prosecution happens according to the Beck-report and is certainly one of the main reasons to seek asylum. And those who uncover crimes committed or instigated and organized by politicians are obviously under danger in the country where this happens. As one cannot exclude that the same politicians who committed, instigated or organized the uncovered crimes have the power to issue an European warrant, the whistleblowers can be prosecuted on the basis of wrong or fabricated accusations throughout Europe easily and the European partner states are obliged to help, to help the perpetrators. But this is exactly what asylum if well founded should avoid. But currently asylum for an EU citizen is excluded by the Ostrich Protocol. Of course, there were legal remedies, such as appeal to the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights. But everybody knows very well that these remedies take time, long time. In the meantime the asylum applicant may be extradited to the country of his persecution with unknown consequences.

Among 28 EU member states it was only Belgium who rejected such a deal at the cost of politically persecuted citizens and declared that it will fulfill its obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 New York Protocol and will carry out an individual examination of any asylum request of a citizen of another EU member state! With this official declaration (no.56) Belgium indirectly confirmed that protocol no.24 is a violation of International law!

As a consequence the Council of the EU should discard Protocol (no 24) immediately. The European Commission, the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament are called upon to support this request. Of course, an application for asylum of an EU citizen will (hopefully) always be an extraordinary, special case. Therefore it may need a special procedure and also special consequences. Instead of forcing member states to ignore their international obligations asylum applications of EU citizens (and permanent residents) should be dealt with at EU level, e.g. by the Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs or even better by an independent body or committee and when they are well founded asylum should be granted for the whole EU territory. But in such cases the Commission should automatically open an investigation of the situation in the country the applicant is coming from in order to avoid similar cases for the future. Such a procedure would be appropriate for the “area of freedom, security and justice, founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights”.

 


[1] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:12012M/TXT&from=EN

[2] idem

[3] http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html

[4] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf

[5]Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf

[6]William Shawcross, member of the board of the International Crisis Group, Shawcross, A Disgraceful EU Asylum Proposal, the New York Times, 14.06.1997, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/14/opinion/14iht-edshaw.t.html ,

[7] 11,7 mio refugees at the end of 2013 according to the 2013 report of UN High Commissioner for Refugees http://www.unhcr.org/539809d40.html

[8]The then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar wanted to hinder with all means that supporters of the terrorist group ETA could be granted asylum in another EU country. But the application of Protocol no.24 is in no way limited to suspects of terrorism!

[9]Landgren, Deflecting international protection by treaty: bilateral and multilateral accords on extradition, readmission and the inadmissibility of asylum requests, UNHCR Working Paper Nr. 10, 1999, S. 12)

[10]http://website-pace.net/documents/19838/1085720/20150108-RuleOfLawThreats-EN.pdf/8f7cf82e-80d5-4b51-abdb-4df05301d73e

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International Law

The rise & rise of populist demagogues in democratic nations

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The term dictators & demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts but there’s a difference, the former rules over a totalitarian state where government is able to exercise a complete influence over every aspect of citizen’s life whereas the latter is a “wannabe dictator” but due to the system of checks & balance in place they’re are not fully capable to create police states.

In 21st century these flamboyant  demagogues  have adjusted their personality & politics in such a way  that they successfully hide their intent & action in the shadows of democratic system so unlike Hitler’s Fascist regime or North Korea’s Communist dictatorship, it’s difficult to held them accountable because they’ll try to justify their hasty & unreasonable decision  in the name of Constitution & larger public good.

There are some common qualities shared by populist demagogues in  democratic countries that need to be checked in all seasons to protect the country & its people from potential benevolent dictators.

1.Compromised Constitutional Bodies

The rabble-rousers of the modern era have smartly learnt from their predecessors that to stay in power for eternity, it’s important to curb & limit the functions of Independent Institutions like Courts, Central Bank, Auditory Bodies, Investigation Agencies etc. For instance the President of Turkey Recep Erdogan has almost destroyed judicial independence in the country & with the recent news about the call of his political ally to shut down Turkey’s Constitutional Courts is not just alarming but also a cause of concern in a country where a record number of journalists are serving jail sentences under false charges & this decision if taken will not just compromise the press freedom which is already at its nadir in Turkey but it’ll also weaken the capacity of judicial system to guarantee the protection of people’s rights.

2.Unnecessary Focus on the revival of Glorious Past

Demagogues keep reminding us about the ancient prosperity & always pushing the narrative to portray their   country as the leading force , it can be done via 2 ways, either promote the soft power like culture, tradition, civilization & spirituality or use even nasty tricks to pull out the blinded nationalism that includes portraying one’s country as the leading colonizer, telling people about invaders & portray them as protector of native civilization or use race theory to create a class divide in society like Hitler did by invoking the Aryan identity that made some people into believing that they are superior to others.

By inciting this false hope of regaining the past glory & branding slogans like “Make America Great Again”, “For us, Hungary First”, “Abki bar, Modi Sarkar” they deceit & manipulate people into voting for their parties without doing any substantive work on the ground.

3.No respect for Dissent & Human Rights

Dissent or criticism of the leader & its establishment is part of a healthy Democratic society where people are fundamentally free to express their views regarding the government’s policies. While delivering a lecture on the topic,” The Hues That Make India: From Plurality to Pluralism,” the Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud noted that ” Descent is the safety valve of a democracy”  but sadly the Modern day Niro of India who ironically belongs to the same State where this lecture was being delivered has left no stone unturned to deliberately cut this valve into pieces.

Critics & Human Rights Activists are put behind bars for raising their voice against the atrocities & crime inflicted on tribals, minorities & other vulnerable sections of society. They are mercilessly beaten, tortured, thrashed & maimed in solitary confinements making no exceptions for maintaining basic human decency that is expected from the “World’s Largest Democracy”.

4. Polarisation for winning elections

The gruesome killing of George Floyd by White male police officer sparked a global outrage & protests against the racial inequality & hate crime that is at its highest level in more than a decade. People demanded accountability & change to stop the Institutionalised & Systemic racism against the people of color in the United States. Ex-president Trump instead of calling out & condemning white supremism  (terrorism) has defended & even embraced this far right radical ideology of hate.

As per the report by V-Dem, there’s an upsurge in political polarisation in India since 2014 when BJP seize the power at Centre & this is evident by frequent incidents of mob-lynching, riots & attacks on minorities especially muslims & Dalits in India. This report further states that Freedom of Religion has seen a considerable decline under the current regime. The reason behind these precipitous decline is the rise of Hindutva Politics which was long gone, forgotten & buried in the coffin but the BJP has called out the jinn of hatred to sway elections after elections at the cost of people who want to live a peaceful life in a non-hostile environment.

5.Violate established rules of Political Conduct

Politics was always a dirty business but populist leaders in most democracies have stooped to a new low & ruined it further. They never shy away from using homophobic & sexiest slurs or passing derogatory remarks against their counterparts in other parties.

Take for instance Brazilian President Bolsonaro, a nutcase who revokes popular prejudices in his ugly campaign rhetoric by passing many offensive & utterly distasteful comments against women, gays, environmentalists & minorities.

The rise of retro-macho politics has left no space for political sobriety & if unchecked, the tumor of hypermasculinity will not be just limited to hate speeches & jibes but translate into formidable action against humanity.

That’s how Romanian dictator Ceaușescu turned his political rhetoric into dystopian reality, under his dictatorship, birth control was banned, abortion was outlawed & fetus was declared the “property of society”, so women were tested for pregnancy & monitored to make sure that they give birth, and punished if they failed.

6. Refusal to accept migrants from Impoverished & war-torn countries

This is the hypocrisy of Western States who for decades have waged war, supported regime change, imposed Economic sanctions & trade barriers, sold weapons to militants in Middle-eastern & African countries finally when refugees & immigrants are arriving at the European borders from these destabilized countries where anarchy has bolstered civil war & complete chaos after covering an extremely dangerous route & taking enormous risks such as relying on people-smugglers or using flimsy boats to cross rough seas, they were detained & locked up under inhumane conditions in shipping containers in Hungary at whims & fancies of  Hungarian government headed by ultra-right wing Viktor Orbán but after the European Union Court ruling last year, Hungary has finally shut-down these illegal migrant transit zones situated on its border with Serbia, at the same time tightening rules which will effectively bar future migration prospects in EU member states.

7. Climate Change Deniers

Climate Change is the biggest threat to human existence in the 21st Century. Earth’s Climate is now changing faster than at any point in modern civilization, primarily as the result of human activities. It needs to be understood that Climate Change is not just a science issue but a policy issue as well. In most of the countries where demagogues are in-charge the policy seems to be more destructive, anti-science & discredit the scientific studies that show that effects of Climate Change are horrific & destructive for the Planet.

The environmental policies of Bolsonaro in Brazil have put the Amazon Rainforest on the verge of extinction. Regarded as the “lungs of the Earth”, the Amazon acts as a giant carbon sink & is also responsible for driving rain patterns across South America & Africa. Leaked documents revealed that Bolsonaro has cynical plans for Amazon Rainforest that includes hydroelectric plants, construction of bridges on Amazon river & a proposed highway through the dense forest to integrate Amazon basin with the rest of the National territory.

Under pressure from the Biden Government, Bolsonaro is now promising to make Brazil Carbon neutral by 2050 but his Environmental minister has asserted that his country is ready to cut 40 percent of deforestation in Amazon Forest only if the International Community will provide $1Billion as assistance. Though It is highly unlikely that the Brazilian government will take any steps against the influential farming lobby that played an important role in the victory of Bolsonaro in 2018 & to whom he has promised to dismantle existing environmental protections to make way for agricultural land expansion and intensified production.

The rise of populist leaders in  democratic countries is not sudden, before seizing power they boastfully promise to set their country free from corruption, crime & socio-economic inequality but after winning election they shift their goal post to achieve sinister objectives. Electoral political system in a democracy needs an urgent overhaul to include an educated perspective rather than simply representing the

will of majority which is no less than tyranny & this could only happen if people(voters) are aware about fascism among themselves & what  does it take for a normal country to become a Nazi State that had turned itself on the path of ravage & destruction. The importance of self realisation & tumultuous past is aptly described in a quote by Ernest Hemingway in his classic book, For whom the Bell tolls “But are there not many fascists in your country?’ There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes“.

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OTT broadcast and its censorship: Whether a violation of freedom of speech and expression

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The whole world, owing to coronavirus pandemic, is enveloped in the darkness. It has wreaked havoc on almost all the aspect of human lives. The educational institutions, theaters and cinemas all have been shuttered. Public gatherings, to maintain the social distancing, have been firmly discouraged. Further, the pandemic has significantly modified the media and entertainment consumption patterns. Social lives ventured into digital environment as a result of people being cramped to their homes. People have switched to several sources of entertainment from the comfort of their own homes and over-the-top (“OTT”) platforms have proven to be a major source of entertainment.

OTT platforms have grown exponentially and taken over the industry. OTT platforms expedites streaming of video content over the web. Several OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney Hotstar, Disney+, Apple TV+, Hulu, etc., have primarily ousted the traditional television service. The notification issued by the Central Government of India aimed at getting online media platforms and content on OTT platforms within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has been making the rounds in recent times. The cabinet Secretariat, on November 9, 2020, released a notification amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961. It has incorporated two new entries to the second schedule of the Rules namely Films and Audio-visual programmes provided by online service provider as well as News and Current Affairs. This action is attributed to the fact that there is large amount of an unrestricted content available on the web as well as lack of an adequate regulatory regime in place to protect its users.

Universal self-Regulation code

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had come up with a Universal self-Regulation code (code) to administer the content available on OTT platforms. The code was primarily adopted by the fifteen OTT platforms namely zee 5, Viacom 18, Disney Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, MX Player, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Arre, HoiChoi, Hungama, Shemaroo, Discovery Plus and Flickstree. SonyLIV and Lionsgate too have recently signed the code. It was manifestly stated in the code that The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) is the main governing framework when it comes to online content. The values enshrined in Article 19 of India’s Constitution, namely the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, direct the internet and material on the internet. A policy for the digital content sector has to be drafted in line with Article 19 of the Indian Constitution i.e. the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, and any constraints on the aforesaid right should be fall within the purview of constitutional restrictions set forth in Article 19(2) of the India’s Constitution.

Further, the code had delineated a mechanism pertaining to (i) Age Classification (the code had particularized the certain categories for standardized age classification namely All ages, 7+, 13+, 16+ and 18+) (ii) Appropriate content specification ( a content descriptor appropriate to each piece of content that demonstrates and tells the viewer about the essence of the content while also advising on viewer discretion) and (iii) Access control Tools( to regulate access to content, signatories to the Code may implement technological tools and measures for access control i.e. PIN/Password.) The code had also established the perspicuous grievance redressal and escalation process to lodge complaint regarding non-adherence to specified guidelines. The MIB, however, has repudiated the proposed code since it did not explicitly categorize the prohibited content. Further, there is no independent third-party oversight and a transparent code of ethics. The MIB instructed IAMAI to seek guidance from the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) self-regulatory frameworks.

A public interest litigation was consolidated in October, 2018, before the hon’ble Delhi High court by Justice For Rights Foundation to draught certain guidelines for modulating the content available on OTT platforms. The MIB while filing the counter affidavit stated that digital platforms are not required to procure a license from them to exhibit their content and the same is not controlled by them. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has also mentioned that they do not oversee internet content and there exists no mechanism for monitoring or licensing an agency or establishment that posts content on the internet. Nevertheless, it was claimed that the provisions concerning IT are applicable, and concerned legislative authority having jurisdiction under the aforesaid Act is authorized to take action using the power granted to them under section 69 of the Act which involves directives for interception, surveillance, or data encryption. Further, under Section 67 of the Act there are penalties pertaining to posting or disseminating obscene information in any digital form. Accordingly, the court while dismissing the petition opined that it cannot grant a mandamus for the creation of regulations when the IT Act already contains stringent restrictions and currently the foregoing petition is pending in the hon’ble supreme court.

Positions of the law in regards to film screenings

A film must be certified by the Central Board of Film Certification before it can be displayed or distributed in cinemas or on satellite, and the content is constrained by existing laws. The CBFC was established by the Cinematograph Act of 1952. When it was established, it was designated as the Board of Film Censors. It was amended in 1959 to give it the authority to certify a picture for mass consumption. The Cinematograph Act of 1952, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, and the Cable Television Networks Rules of 1994 are among the laws that govern the industry. However, there is no such particular legislation for regulating material on OTT platforms. The government by virtue of Article 19(2) of Indian constitution can impose restrictions on freedom of speech and expressions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality and so on. Consequently, broadcasted content has often been a restricted matter. In K.A. Abbas v. Union of India and Another[1], the constitutionality of censorship was initially challenged. The hon’ble supreme court has upheld the constitutionality of censorship under Article 19(2) of the India’s constitution and stated that films must be viewed differently from any kind of art and expressions because a motion picture can elicit more intense emotional response than any other product of Art. However, such censorship should not be exercised to imposed an undue restriction on freedom of speech and expression.

The constitutionality of censorship was also disputed in S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram [2]wherein the hon’ble supreme court has held that the board’s criterion for appraising the films must be that of an ordinary man with common sense and wisdom rather than that of a hypersensitive mind. The Moral values ought not to be compromised in the realm of any social change. The concept of “Dharam” should not be disrupted by the immoral norms or standards. However, it does not suggest that censors must embrace a conservative perspective. They should be resilient to social change and go with the topical environment. The film is the most legitimate and significant medium for addressing topics of public concern. The producer has the right to broadcast his own message, which others may or may not concur with. The state, regardless of how hostile to its policies, cannot suppress open debate and expression. The democracy is basically a government by the people based on open debate. The democratic form of administration necessitates citizens’ active and informed engagement in the societal issue.

Furthermore in, Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd. And Anr. V. The Central Board of Certification[3], it was said that we are governed in a democratic manner. We can’t expect everyone’s head and intellect to be the same in a democracy. Freedom to think and act in a different way is at the heart of democracy. The beauty of democracy is the diversity of viewpoints, ideas, and manifestations. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to exhibit themselves in the same way. In the film business, new blood is being infused. This new blood is revved up and eager to get their feet wet in the industry. The film business and the general public have embraced such new blood. Their effort has been recognized and praised by the government. These works are predicated on a certain way of thinking that is unique to them. They have their own opinions and ideas on how the film business should operate, as well as how the medium altogether must be managed. Profanity, obscenity, and depravity do not shock human emotions. Such situations and discussions must be seen in their entirety. The narrative must be perused in its totality and thought upon. It is not appropriate to choose a few phrases, lines, conversations, or situations and venture into the board’s resolution. Certainly, the state, and notably the Central Board of Film Certification, cannot attempt to sculpt and dominate public opinion under the guise of purported public interest or audience preference. That would be terrible, as it would hit at the heart of democracy and civil liberty, which are held in such high regard by everybody. The goals of film certification, consequently, cannot be achieved by disregarding the Constitutionally guaranteed right or by fully undermining and disappointing it. A movie has to be watched on its own and judged accordingly. The plot, subject, background, and location in which it is created, the message it aims to express, and the entertainment, among other things, would all have to be assessed using section 5B’s standards.

Should OTT platforms be governed by a code of self-regulation?

Self-regulation is presently the only option available to such platforms in order to maintain the ability to broadcast material without undue censorship. Because unreasonable restriction would impede the creative flexibility of OTT platforms. It will assist platforms in conducting themselves in an ethical and fair manner while also safeguarding the interests of their users. It would protect content producers’ artistic freedom by promoting creativity and upholding an individual’s right to free speech and expression. The general public desires to view the content in its original and untainted state. They strive to understand artwork in its most primitive sense. The fundamental role of government agency is to maintain the fair field, not to inhibit innovation and ingenuity by placing limitations in a tech industry.

Self-regulators’ competence allows them to adjust their regulations more quickly than government agencies in reaction to technological advancement. More significantly, independent of any technological change, the self-regulator is better equipped to decide when a rule should be modified to improve compliance. Self-regulation has the ability to make compliance more appealing. It develops regulations based on an expert’s level of understanding, customized to the specific sector. These rules are viewed by regulated entities as more “reasonable” from the inception owing to their involvement[4].

Conclusion

The MIB by virtue of the amendment has now can regulate and draught policies regarding digital media and online streaming on OTT platforms. However, such governmental intervention can considerably jeopardize the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. The suppression of freedom of speech and expression is what censorships is all about. The freedom of speech and expression suggests that right to manifest one’s thought via words of mouth, writing, picture and any other means. The freedom of speech is one of the most well-known and fiercely protected civil rights against government encroachment. In modern democratic societies, it is generally considered as an essential notion. Every citizen of a democratic nation has the freedom to express his or her opinions on various issues. Thousands of viewpoints are disseminated around the country via various channels. A film director has the freedom to manifest himself and gives effect to his thoughts, even though others may not concur with him. An exhibition of films as well as documentaries cannot be prohibited for purely speculative reasons since prohibiting motion pictures is tantamount to suppressing the right to freedom of expression and speech. Restrictions upon Individual’s freedom of speech and expression must only be permitted if they are required to avert severe harm from being perpetrated. It is critical to have a healthy and extensive amount of free expression in order to assert a thriving and well- functioning democracy. Democracy, otherwise, is obsolete and akin to a totalitarian dictatorship[5]. It should be up to the public to determine what they want to see and what they don’t want to watch. Thus, the cornerstone to safeguarding artistic freedom is a sustainable self-governance paradigm.


[1] K.A. Abbas v. Union of India and Another (1970) 2 S.C.C. 780

[2] S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989) 2 S.C.C. 574

[3] Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd. And Anr. V. The Central Board of Certification 2016 S.C.C. online Bom 3862: (2016) 4 AIR Bom R 593: AIR 2017 (NOC 62) 29

[4] Id. at 13

[5] Subhradipta Sarkar, RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH IN A CENSORED DEMOCRACY, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER SPORTS

 AND ENTERTAINMENT LAW JOURNAL 62, 84 ,89 (2009)

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International Law

What Determines Taliban Government’s Legitimacy?

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

With the fall of Kabul, and the evasion of President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban has taken over the reins of Afghanistan. States like Pakistan and China have already expressed their willingness to “work with the Taliban”  thereby legitimizing the Taliban government, whereas India has refused to recognize this “reign of terror”. The jurisprudential question of legitimacy arises here because the transfer of power in Afghanistan was through a coup d’etat which constitutes an extra-constitutional means of formation of government. Governments desire legitimacy because it gives them the right to rule and an acceptance on the international and domestic levels.

The most accepted theory in this regard is Hans Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law. Kelsen, a positivist, claimed that law was contaminated by sociological impurities and morality, and focussed his theory on law alone. He based the legitimacy of the new order of government on its efficacy, and a rule was said to be efficacious when individuals regulated by it “behave, by and large, in conformity” with it. When the new order was efficacious, the coup was said to be successful, and the new government was held to be a legitimate one. Kelsen’s theory was widely accepted to uphold governments after coups such as in The State v. Dosso (Pakistan; 1958), Madzimbamuto v. Lardner-Burke (Southern Rhodesia; 1968), and Uganda v. Commissioner of Prisons (Uganda; 1966), among others. Since Kelsen tries to purify laws from the socio-political aspects, he contends that that it is irrelevant why people comply with the law and it could even be out of pure fear. Thus, a rogue government such as the Taliban which is efficacious as it receives compliance out of coercion and not out of consent, would be a legitimate one from a Kelsenian perspective.

The primary criticism that arises to Kelsen’s separability thesis is that he fails to distinguish between validity of law and its legitimacy. Critics have argued that while validity of law concerns with its authoritativeness, legitimacy depends on the virtue of justness and is contingent upon socio-political and moral factors. The issue lies with attaching legitimacy to the performance of the government. Instead, legitimacy should involve the questions of whether the government has the ability to demand the obligations out of voluntary conviction, provide for public goods such as the rule of law, protection of fundamental rights, etc., and function in a manner such that the society is generally benefitted. A study on legitimacy in seventy-two countries concludes that more the citizens are treated as rightful holders of political power, more legitimacy the government derives. This means that the virtue of legitimacy must flow from the citizens and the society and not from a coercive power that the top-down approach provides.

In the light of this, when the Taliban government is examined, it is realised that with its extremist ideology and terror activities in the past, it can hardly fulfil this criteria.While the ‘good Taliban’ has claimed that it will protect the freedom of press and not discriminate against women while allowing for their participation in the society within framework of Islamic law, these assurances will pacify only those who are unfamiliar with its history. Under the rule of Taliban in the years between 1996 and 2001, human rights were suspended, and political killings, rape, torture, amputation, and public executions were common place. A Taliban 2.0 which has emerged victorious against one of the major superpowers of the world, and has external support is unlikely to reform. Ideologically, they still remain the same movement committed to a puritan interpretation of Islam and this is evidenced by the fact that the barbaric Sharia law is in place once again. These baseless claims should be perceived as a political strategy to appease states into granting them de jure legitimacy because despite the jurisprudence of legitimacy developed, there is nothing in the international law that bars states like China, Russia, Pakistan or others from recognizing the rogue state of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Therefore, the future of the Taliban and Afghanistan rests in the interplay of international actors.

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