What is this #SpeechBill?
What does it do? The #Speechbill is a public consultation to help form consensus and debate to reform defamation law in India. It aims to achieve this by doing two things. First, it removes the criminal defamation provision completely and second it brings a civil law to provide a better mechanism to deal with defamation matters. Such a framework may give a good balance to the right to free speech and the protection of a person's reputation.
Criminal defamation is a colonial relic of the British Raj: The criminal law of defamation is a colonial law that served a need that no longer exists. It is a law that was made to prevent death by duels, usually done by “society” men who were acting to purge their family’s dishonor in 18th century England. While none of us are fencing and drawing blood, the criminal defamation law is being used to threaten and silence voices. These are the voices of artists, actors, painters, writers, sportspersons and ordinary internet users -- - like you.
A threat to digital Indians: As more Indians come online, gaining not only a voice but an audience, colonial laws present a clear threat to freedom of expression. Criminal defamation law is increasingly being used to threaten, harass and prevent speech. Due to this many countries have repealed criminal defamation or are in the process of its repeal. In line with this modern trend the proposed #SpeechBill has incorporated in its principles the best practices found in foreign legislations on defamation.
A balanced, modern defamation law: The repeal of criminal defamation also may require a policy choice not to be done in isolation. For this the main thoughts behind the #SpeechBill are to create an effective, balanced remedy for civil reliefs, such as corrections, apologies and reasonable damages. This would provide recourse to an injured party and brings responsibility to a publication. Modern India deserves a modern defamation law. Given that it will apply only to cases that come up in future (not to any pending cases) it is a policy measure we hope nudges defamation law towards civil rights and public interest.