iconimg Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Zia Haq, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 12, 2014
Rahul Gandhi’s “Hitler” jibe at BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi may have the Opposition party seething, but a leading scholar of law and constitutions has virtually endorsed unlimited free speech during elections.
 
“In the time of elections, you should be able to say anything. That’s responsible freedom,” Upendra Baxi, professor of law in development at the University of Warwick and a former Delhi University vice-chancellor, said at the Jamia Millia Islamia on Wednesday.

Read: Gloves off: Rahul Gandhi compares Modi to Hitler
 
Baxi, a Padma Shri whose works on constitutionalism and human rights are considered global landmarks, said he had heard “just the other day” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi refer to “Hitler” and also use phrases such as “zeher ki kheti” (poisonous harvest), in his political speeches.

“There should be maximum tolerance of free speech during elections. Free speech and elections have a strong bond. To break the bond would be to break democracy itself,” Baxi said.
 
Moderator Shaikh Mujibur Rehman, who teaches at Jamia’s Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, said Baxi implied that free speech added to the health of democracy and the public ultimately would notice who said what.
 
Baxi said one of the fundamental duties of every India citizen, under the Constitution, was to appreciate the country’s “rich heritage of composite culture”. “An aspirational Constitution looks at the spirit, not the letter,” he said.