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Dissent in democracy

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  26 Feb 2020 8:00 AM GMT

Dissent and democracy are two terms that are not only often considered ideal in a liberal and democratic social order, but they are inseparable from each other. It is through the system or mechanism of open debate and discussion that the diversity of perceptions are exposed and honoured in a democracy, which in turn only strengthens democracy. It is in this universal as also in the immediate backdrop of large-scale protests across the country over certain government decisions that two interesting observations have come: One from the Vice-President of India, and the other from a senior Supreme Court Judge on the importance of dissent in a democracy. Coincidentally, both the observations were made on the same day, Monday. Justice Deepak Gupta has said that the right to dissent is essential for democracy. He also stated that criticism of the Executive, Judiciary, bureaucracy, and the Armed Forces cannot be termed as “anti-national”. Speaking at an event organized by the Supreme Court Bar Association in New Delhi, Justice Gupta also said that everyone including judges must be open to criticism. According to him, the right to dissent is the “biggest” and “most important right” granted by the Constitution and it includes the right to criticise. There can be no democracy without dissent as long as one does not break the law or encourage strife. In Panaji, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu said at the annual Goa University convocation that though dissent is the essence of democracy, nobody however can be allowed to speak against the nation. Naidu was probably directing his speech towards a section of people who are engaged in propagating anti-national ideas and actions detrimental to the integrity and sovereignty of the nation. He added that though dissent is the essence of democracy, it should not be directed or intended towards destruction or disintegration of the country. “Nobody can be allowed to speak against the nation,” he said. He is right because certain elements are even talking about cutting off the Northeast. Unfortunately, some elements from Assam have sympathised with those ani-nationals. That is not dissent.

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