Indian police detain members of National Students' Union of India (NSUI) as they protest against the rise in unemployment and Central Government policies, in New Delhi, India, 12 March 2021. EFE/EPA/FILE/RAJAT GUPTA

Indian Supreme Court pulls up Modi govt for curbing freedom of expression

New Delhi, Apr 5 (EFE).- The Supreme Court of India accused the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of limiting freedom of expression under the guise of “national security.”

The criticism of the government formed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) comes as several critical voices and the media face investigations and judicial proceedings on different charges.

“The state is using national security as a tool to deny citizens remedies that are provided under the law. This is not compatible with the rule of law,” said the Supreme Court in a ruling in which it canceled a government ban on a news channel, according to the specialized media LiveLaw.

The government had suspended the services of a regional television channel, MediaOne, by not renewing its broadcasting license under the pretext of national security.

The Home Ministry had described the channel as anti-establishment over its reporting on a contentious citizenship law passed in 2020.

The law had sparked protests in different parts of the country for providing flexibility to various religious minorities to obtain Indian citizenship, except Muslims.

However, the court noted that such government action “produces a chilling effect on free speech and in particular on press freedom.”

This verdict comes amid a series of actions by the Modi-led BJP government against opposing media voices and political opponents.

Indian tax authorities raided the offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation in New Delhi and Mumbai for nearly three days in February over alleged doubts about the outlet’s finances.

The visit came just a month after the BBC aired a controversial documentary about Modi’s role during bloody religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat when he was serving as chief minister of the state.

The arrests of journalists, especially in Indian Kashmir, continue to draw criticism from numerous human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Last year, HRW named 35 journalists from Indian Kashmir who were victims of police interrogations, raids, threats, threats and physical assaults  since august 2019, while some were even charged with false crimes.

Another case that has caused concern about possible pressure from the Indian government is the recent two-year prison sentence against opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, the leading figure of the grand old Congress Party, for defaming the prime minister.

This sentence led to Gandhi’s disqualification as a parliamentarian a day later, putting at risk his participation in the forthcoming general elections next year.

Last month, the US government, in its annual report on human rights in India, denounced violence, threats, arrests and unjustified trials of journalists, and the application of laws against defamation laws to limit their expression. EFE