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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Letters to the editor: Undiscerning law

Lower courts have often been tardy in applying that test, even though higher courts have generally stood by serious authors and artists.

Published: February 28, 2014 12:41:09 am

Undiscerning law
Jyoti Punwani’s ‘For Doniger row, don’t blame the law’ (IE, February 26) misses the central point of the petition signed by 3,700 academics from all over the world asking Penguin India to continue its legal defence of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History and appealing to lawmakers and jurists to consider strengthening the law to protect serious scholarly and artistic works against motivated and frivolous harassment through the use of Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code.

Those laws do clarify that an offending speech or publication must be the product of deliberate and malicious intent. Lower courts have often been tardy in applying that test, even though higher courts have generally stood by serious authors and artists. But the very prospect of long and expensive legal battles to clear a scholar or artist of these criminal charges appears to have become sufficiently intimidating for many publishers, as is shown by Penguin’s decision to settle out of court and pulp their stocks of Doniger’s book. Punwani’s examples show that in its current use, the law appears to make no distinction between a renowned scholar such as Doniger and mob inciters such as Bal Thackeray, Akbaruddin Owaisi and Madhukar Sarpotdar. Surely there is something wrong here.
— Partha Chatterjee

I was fed up with the stereotypical, hackneyed and bland commentary about the Wendy Doniger affair. Jyoti Punwani’s article was refreshing, enlightening, objective and innovative. It was a treat to read. Punwani’s critique was the most balanced one I have come across on the raging controversy. The writer presented a historic perspective of Sections 295A and 153A of the IPC, which reflected her scholarship, erudition and, above all, courage to sail against the wind.
— R.K. Mathur

Not just navy chief
Former navy chief Admiral D.K. Joshi’s resignation exemplifies the purest tradition of accountability (‘One more disaster under his watch, navy chief resigns’, IE, February 27). Joshi chose to quit his job not because of any direct mistake on his part, but because he felt responsible. But let’s not forget that our defence establishment is deprived of cutting edge equipment because of political inefficiency. And if the navy chief is responsible, then the defence minister is equally so.
— Chandramohan

It was a sad day for the forces that the navy chief had to resign and, worse still, that his resignation was accepted. Doesn’t the defence minister also have a moral responsibility in this case? The navy urgently needs to take stock of its equipment and maintenance, and it needs to properly train and motivate its men. Most importantly, civil-military relations need revitalisation.
— R.D. Singh

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