Prize Winning Speech Delivered at Debate Competition in Maharaja Agrasen College

The topic for today’s debate is that this house will honour religious sentiments by censoring creative expression and I, Saif Ahmad Khan, will speak for the motion. All freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution are justiciable but none of them are absolute in nature. Freedom of Speech and Expression is one of the foremost rights guaranteed to us and Article 19 of the Constitution deals with it. This right like all other fundamental rights is coupled with a set of riders. These riders include that the right of free speech shouldn’t be utilized to violate communal harmony, religious sentiments, public order, morality, decency, security of the state and must not amount to contempt of court.

The fundamental approach with which this fundamental right is approached needs to be rectified. Constructive criticism of religion is always welcome, it’s laudable and commendable but blasphemy, communal instigation and provocation to undertake sacrilege are indeed unholy and unconstitutional. An individual falls well within the ambit of the freedom of speech and expression when he criticizes the caste system in Hinduism or the status of women in Islam but if somebody abuses or questions the character of Prophet Mohammad as Mr Rushdie did, if somebody paints a Hindu God in the nude as Mr Hussain did or if somebody recommends demolition of mosques as Mr Swamy did, he is indeed indulging in absolute abuse of the freedom of speech and expression. These are all controversies involving blatant blasphemy and despotic defamation of deities which is capable of fueling anarchy.

I do agree that protestors against these people have not waged their dissent democratically but the fact remains that you are secular if you respect the Constitution and the restrictions imposed by it. Whether those restrictions are reasonable or unreasonable can always be tested in a court of law. I would like to conclude by stating that within the realm of our rights, our freedoms are absolute but we are not entitled to supersede the sphere of our rights by denigrating another community’s religion. All creations which bypass constitutional restrictions are bound to get banned. 

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