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Tathagata Satpathy seeks public views on proposed #SpeechBill

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Tathagata SatpathyBJD leader, Tathagata Satpathy

60-year old Tathagata Satpathy, a senior Biju Janata Dal Party (BJD) leader and representative of the Dhenkanal constituency of Orissa in the Parliament has launched a online campaign for public consultation and endorsement of a draft Protection of Speech and Reputation Bill.

The website which has gone live yesterday has so far received support from 338 individuals, 12 organisations and been reviewed by 16 reviewers. It’s also got the tweeteraites talking with #SpeechBill and @SatpathyLive. One can express their views/ comments until September 27, post which the Bill will be finalised. One can also send their views / comments via email to ideas@speechbill.in.

Satpathy intends to present the draft bill in the Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill. The main agenda of creating awareness is to spark a debate on how we can act to reform laws in India, in this case the law relating to defamation.

The main trigger for the campaign has been the rising number of sedition cases being slapped on individuals or organizations over with allegations of anti-India slogans being raised by them.

According to the website, they have listed 10 Principles to make the #Speech Bill. The said principles are synthesis of Supreme Court judgements and best practices.

The 10 Principles are as follows:

  1. Constitutional values require legislative action to protect speech and reputation
  2. Criminal defamation is a disproportionate sanction on free speech
  3. Civil defamation law requires consolidation and reform
  4. Civil defamation requires direct harm to be caused
  5. Civil defamation can only be claimed against the speaker, editor, and publisher of the statement
  6. Pre-litigation measures to, limit abuse, promote settlement and avoid litigation
  7. Cases by government and public servants should not lead to censorship
  8. Avoiding multiplicity of litigation and forum shopping for a single statement
  9. Reasonable, balanced damages that repair reputations without a chilling effect
  10. Any change in law needs to be made prospectively