Social Justice & Society
As a lawmaker with experience of several terms in both houses of the parliament, Mr Baijayant Jay Panda has taken nuanced and proactive stances in relation to many pressing issues concerning Social Justice & Society. Here is a summary of few of his initiatives:
The debate on free speech and freedom of expression needs to be rescued from the political agendas from people on both left and right end of spectrum with a centrist approach. It is important to analyze and understand free speech and sedition in conjunction with blasphemy. There must be distinctions between speech and action in accordance with a ruling of Supreme Court which held that sedition was applicable only if there was “an incitement to violence” or “public disorder”.
Rights to Free Speech in India are nowhere near absolute and there is a broad array of restrictions specified by Constitution, which include security, foreign relations, public order and morality. Free Speech may not be free when it is sanitized, but the crucial difference between speech and action must be there and support for the same must be on basis of principles with narrowly defined exceptions.
Vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims do not consider jihadi killers as representative of their religion. The world needs the support for those within Islam speaking up for reform, to adapt to modernity. Religiously inspired terrorism must be strongly condemned. Moderate Muslims who may be either disillusioned about religion or secular in religious belief, shall need to push for religious reform within Islam.
Religiously inspired terrorism, although not exclusive to the followers of Islam, there are credible statistics to indicate that Jihadi terrorism surpasses terror acts by any other forms of religiously inspired terrorism, even, left wing extremism for the matter. Islamic texts need to adapt to modernity by promotion of free and critical thinking, because the same religious texts of Islam inspire both peace loving Muslims and Muslims who endorse terrorism.
The debate on religious conversion in our country gets polarized on who are the converters and who are being converted. The rights of conversion by members of both minority and majority communities need to be supported.
Although Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom to practice and profess one’s religion, it has been held the Supreme Court that the same does not confer right to convert another person to one’s own religion. There are few states in India that already have laws regulating religious conversions and make it a requirement for converts to explain the reason to justify their conversion and for authorities to assess the genuineness, such laws can undermine religious freedom.
Given the nature of volatility regarding the debates of religious conversion, it is theoretically possible to agree to minimum definition of acceptable norms that are compatible with Constitution, but in reality, there is unlikely to be consensus across political spectrum on the topic. Political parties who defend the right of minority communities to proselytize others take an exact opposite stand when it concerns to acts of religious conversion by the majority.
Any form of vigilante violence is strictly and unequivocally condemnable, whether to “speed up” the consequences of breaking the law or to enforce ideas that are not supported by law, are illegal and unacceptable.
Progressive democracies in the world are ones those which have comparatively lower crime rates, hence, no regressive ruling authority, such as few dictatorships in the world, can provide reasonable security against criminal offenders by curtailing civil liberties. Although the criminal justice in our system provides delayed justice to our people and it is natural for anyone to lose faith in rule of law, developing tolerance for vigilantism without authorization of law in the face of an unjust legal authority for delivery of ‘speedy justice’, can drive us towards anarchy.
Any appeal for vigilantism must be countered by the real risk that without checks and balances of legal authorities, it will inevitably be misused by vigilante groups.