“Historically respectable personalities”: The Supreme Court invents a new exception to free speech

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Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy

When the Supreme Court struck down S. 66A of the IT Act in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India two months ago, the verdict was hailed as a landmark milestone in Indian free speech jurisprudence, for two reasons. First, for once, the Supreme Court followed up its platitudes about the value of free speech in a democracy not with a sentence beginning with “but...”, but rather with actual concrete action – striking down a speech-restricting provision. And secondly, it was a judgement in which the Supreme Court began with the text of Article 19(1)(a) and 19(2), proceeded to rigorously examine that text in light of constitutional history, purpose and precedent, and analysed the impugned law on the touchstone of the Constitution, as understood and interpreted over the years.

Today, in Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar vs State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court reversed the slight gains…

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