Dec 2020

Public Conversation on ‘Free Speech and its (Un)lawful Restriction’

Saturday, 19 Dec 2020, 6:00 pm-Saturday, 19 Dec 2020, 7:00 pm


We are at a point of time in India’s history when public faith in institutions of democracy appears to be diminishing again. The long-cherished belief in the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, as the protector of the common person’s rights has come under the scanner. It is an important moment to start a conversation on how judiciary is and can continue to be a foundational building block of our democracy – both in an attempt to understand the present state of affairs and to offer solutions.

The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy is organising a series of public conversations titled ‘Conscience Keeper: Judiciary as the Constitutional Guardian’. It is a series of four conversations spread over our Constitutional Law Month. These conversations will address some of the most pressing concerns of our time, including judiciary and constitutional courage, unlawful restriction of free speech, and the nature of federalism in India today, among others. The series is being organised in affiliation with the Kautilya Society at the National Law University, Odisha, one of Vidhi’s several student societies. We hope to take this conversation forward with you for the larger public good.

The first conversation on November 18 was on ‘Federalism in India – Cooperative, Competitive or Adversarial?’ with Dr P Thiaga Rajan, MLA, Tamil Nadu Assembly, Dr M Govinda Rao, Member, Fourteenth Finance Commission and former Director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), and Alok Prasanna, Co-Founder and Lead, Vidhi Karnataka.

A conversation on November 26 was on ‘Judicial Pressures and Constitutional Courage’ with Justice BN Srikrishna, Indian Jurist and Retired Supreme Court Judge, Salman Khurshid, Senior Advocate and Politician, and Dhruti Kapadia, Solicitor and Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court.

The third conversation was on ‘Master of the Roster – Role of the Chief Justice of India’ on December 14 with Dr Aparna Chandra, Associate Professor of Law at the National Law School of India University and Alok Prasanna, Lead, Vidhi Karnataka.

Public Conversation on ‘Free Speech and its (Un)lawful Restriction’

What is free speech and how it may be restricted has been heavily disputed from the first days of the Indian republic. Courts have played a key role in building a body of law which has defined the contours of free speech but have also stepped into controversy over issues such as contempt of court.

In a discussion on December 19 at 6 PM, we explore the many angles to the free speech debate in India with specific reference to journalistic freedoms and contempt of courts.


Prashant Iyengar, Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University

H R Venkatesh, Director, Training & Research, BOOM Factcheck

Moderated by Arghya Sengupta, Founder & Research Director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.