In a significant judgment, the Madras High Court Bench prescribed a dress code for men, women and even children wanting to visit temples maintained by Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department across the State.
The judge also said that his order should be followed as an interim measure till the State government takes a policy decision as expeditiously as possible to prescribe a similar dress code in order to enhance the spiritual ambiance among devotees.
The temples which are not coming within the purview of the Government shall enforce their own dress code.Police will not allow devotees inside any Hindu Temple of Tamil Nadu who wear dresses other than the one prescribed.
Observing that the object of imposing dress code was to restrict devotees who visit the temple in “improper clothing,” the judge said that all religions, including Christianity and Islam, prescribe a decent, neat and disciplined dress code for worshiping their respective Gods.
Judgement of this kind has multiple facets :-
Is this judicial activism or judicial overreach:-
Because for one , the HC has no business to tell the people what to wear. To understand it better , Lets use another analogy when a minister has stated that improper clothing leading to eve-teasing and sexual harassment .Now the statement by the minister was essential to promote decency in clothing. However Decency varies according to people, place and socio-cultural milieu; hence there was a no. of protest against the particular statement of the minister .In the same vein we can argue that the HC should have restrained to prescribe on what to wear , instead it would have been better if the HC had directed the temple to form their own dress code (Should the temple prescribe dress code ?- argued later). In Padmanavaswamy Temple in Kerala there is a dress code which is prescribed by the temple itself and there is no interference of HC . Moreover , this is socio-cultural aspect hence response to this should have been a socio-cultural reform , not an interference by the hands of Law.
Is there any merit in judgement of HC:-
To understand this , we have to keep aside the “right to wear” and see what has gone wrong that led to intervention by the HC. The HC prescribes this order as the spiritual ambiance has been deteriorating in the places of worship. If we could get out of our denial mode, then the statement is broadly true; personally many of us would have come across this situation when clothing of others would have seemed improper to us. However, without being judgmental about it , people and their clothing should be left to their choice and their conscious decision.
The use of Self-restraint:-
Conscious decision and self-restraint are very much important in anybody’s life.An occasional alcohol drinker , without self-restraint may become addicted to it.However , in our society there are many occasional drinkers (Social-drinkers) who are not addicted to alcohol. So to say, this vindicates the point that people, by and large in our society exercise the self-restraint to live in harmony with the society and it’s values.If one does not exercise self-restraint, usually moral policing follows .But moral policing alienates people rather than reforming them . Hence in this scenario – it would have been best if HC would have asked the temples to form their own dress code, and prescription from temples would have helped people make conscious decision while visiting places of worship without deteriorating spiritual ambiance.
Should we protest against this order:-
Yes, we should protest against this order , but before doing that we should protest against the dress code of discos and clubs, dress code of certain luxury hotels, dress code in sports, dress code in Military, dress code in offices and wherever dress code is used .If we don’t protest against this dress codes then we must not protest against this order of HC.It is true that it was judicial overreach but what we forget while making judgement is that it was a social compulsion that led to this judicial overreach. If we don’t reform as society , we will be reformed by other means (judicial activism is one such tool)
2)Time to abolish criminal defamation :-
The observation by the Supreme Court that political leaders should not take criticism as a personal insult highlights a particular kind of intolerance that is rarely referred to in the ongoing debate on the subject: the inability of public figures to tolerate criticism and their repeated resort to criminal defamation proceedings to stifle adverse comment.
There are 100-odd prosecutions launched by the government of Tamil Nadu against politicians and the media.
Criminal defamation has a chilling effect on free speech and undermines public interest bycoercing the media to observe self-censorship and self-restraint.
Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalize defamation in India, have been challenged in the Supreme Court, but so far there is little hope that the State will give up the use of this weapon against adverse coverage.
Democratic opinion in many countries is veering around to the view that defamation should be treated as a civil wrong and should not be pursued as a criminal case, and that the state has no compelling interest to protect the reputation of its individual servants by prosecuting alleged offenders.
In 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights called upon states to abolish criminal defamation, noting that it intimidates citizens and makes them shy away from exposing wrongdoing.
Analysis of Editorial:-
Mostly defamation is used against media houses by public figures and hence to understand the discourse of defamation , it is necessary to understand media vs public figure.
It is true that criminal defamation has a chilling effect of freedom speech and is largely used against media houses to “coerce them to exercise self-censorship and self-restraint” – as per this statement media is coerced to exercise self-censorship and self-restraint – the question is – should the media not exercise these two in the first place ?If they exercise the two , then there is no need for forcing it upon them.
Another dismal fact of Indian media house is that they survive on sensationalism. They have known to take statement of particular public figure and twist it around to generate viewership.There has been cases , where an alleged offender (emphasis on alleged , not convicted) has been persecuted by media – famously known as media trials. Media has influenced court proceedings and cases.
This discourse of media is very true now in India.There are cases where the media has selectively defamed a person even before the court verdict is out , there by undermining the basic principle of our jurisprudence – “Innocent until proven guilty” . It has always taken a stand of “Holier than thou” and uses the bogey of “freedom of Speech” to get public empathy. However as per our constitution “Freedom of Speech” is not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions.For eg- one has all the rights of freedom of speech but one cannot exercise the same freedom of speech rights while giving hate speech. Similarly, media can give constructive criticism , but it should stay away from becoming the police, the persecutor and the jury.
These are the examples where the media in India is tagged as paid-news and lacks the self-restraint and unbiased reporting. Serious Journalism is nowhere to be seen. Hence defamation becomes a necessary tool for the person in concern , so as to safeguard his/her reputation and social standing .However Criminal defamation truly serves no purpose.Hence the defamation should be treated as civil wrong.
The state of Media in India has been reflected in the statement of the President in his recent address to Press Club of India:-
“It is said accusations appear in headlines, denial in small print and contradictions are hidden away amidst cheap advertisements. The media must realise that it remains always accountable to its readers and viewers and through them, to the entire nation”
Details of Presidents address :- http://upsctree.com/2015/11/16/16-nov-2015-2/
3)Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) scheme :-
Scheme was launched to boost the quality of the country’s higher education through international collaboration.
Aims at Tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India’s scientific and technological capabilities
It will bring world-class educators from across the globe to teach in India.
These lectures would be made available later to students across the country. A web portal gian.iitkgp.ac.in has been designed by IIT Kharagpur to allow electronic registration and online assessment.
P.S. – The Analysis is exclusive to UPSCTREE, kindly let us know if you have any concern and comment in this regard. We strongly believe in debate, discussion and deliberation and always open to it.
Question of the Day
To be answered in 150-200 words:-
What do you understand by Judicial Overreach. Do you think since the oncoming of PIL (Public Information Litigation ) , the judiciary became hyper active ?
Do you think it will be of any help for Indian students to bring world class educator to teach in India , especially when we don’t have the “world-class” infrastructure ,”World-class” curriculum and “World-class” quality programs.
What do you understand by media trial ? Media can do both – strengthen a nation or weaken it . Comment.