New Delhi, Aug 28 (ILNS) Supreme Court Judge, Justice DY Chandrachud today cautioned the public against over-reliance on the government to provide the social, political, economic, cultural and, in the current context, medical truths, and highlighted manipulation of COVID-19 data as an example.
“One cannot rely only on the State for truth. Totalitarian governments are known for their constant reliance on falsehoods to consolidate power… we see there is an increasing trend among countries to manipulate COVID-19 data,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Delivering the Justice MC Chagla Memorial Lecture, ‘Speaking Truth to Power: Citizens and the Law”, Justice Chandrachud said, ” truth is important in modern democracies which have been described as spaces of reason since any decision must be backed by adequate reason and because a reason based on falsehood, would be no reason at all”.
Justice Chandrachud recalled legendary jurist MC Chagla as someone who consistently upheld the rule of law and advocated for civil liberties. He recounted the heroic opposition made by MC Chagla against the imposition of emergency.
He said that “Speaking truth to power” refers to an act by a speaker to use truth to criticize someone who is more powerful,. This act aims to wield the power to truth to against power. It is important to consider why truth is so important to democracy, a form of governance adopted to avoid tyranny of the law and of the few.
Referring to the the bonded labour system abolition act that enacted in 1976 , Justice Chandrachud said that state does not seek to rectify merely mischief’s grounded in scientific truths but also those grounded in moral truths.
“The phenomenon of fake news is on the rise. The WHO (World Health Organization) recognized this during the COVID pandemic… calling it ‘infodemic’. Human beings have a tendency to get attracted to sensational news… which are often based on falsehoods,” the Apex court judge states.
Quoting Noam Chomsky, he said that public intellectuals have a duty to expose the lies of the state. He reminded that in India since women, Dalits and others belonging to marginalised communities did not traditionally enjoy power, their opinions were were not conferred with the status of truth.
He wondered if laws are even different from opinions in a plural society where there are varied lived experiences of different people. For instance, long before the decision of the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar which decriminalised homosexuality and long before a miniscule population of our country normalised homosexuality, Denmark had legalised samesex marriage, Justice Chandrachud explained.
Justice Chandrachud also said that it is often noted that even on the internet, the largest portion of the blame is often laid on the largest corporations like Facebook and Twitter. Part of the problem is that these platforms allow users to create their own networks and communities, it also leads to homogeneity between those networks, creating an echo chamber. We must strive to ensure that we have a press free of influence of any kind- political or economic which will provide us information in an unbiased manner.
As citizens of a democracy, we need to commit ourselves to the search for truth as a key aspiration of our society , he commented./ILNS/SS/SNG