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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 28

Good-bye Feroze

Monday 30 June 2008, by Nikhil Chakravartty

Parliament has just repealed the Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of Publication) Act which came into force twenty years ago in 1956. Late Feroze Gandhi, who initiated and piloted the Bill in Parliament, made a powerful case which might have been useful for the present Government to bear in mind. Sri Bhupesh Gupta, in his signed article in New Age of February 1, 1976, has recalled Feroze Gandhi’s speech, from which a significant portion is reproduced here below:

“For the success of our parliamentary form of Government and democracy, and so that the will of the people shall prevail, it is necessary that our people should know what transpires in this House. This is not your House, or my House, it is the House of the People….It is on their behalf that we speak and function in this Chamber. These people have a right to know what their chosen representatives say and do. Anything that stands in the way must be removed. The extent to which democracy has succeeded can be judged by the extent to which we have successfully compelled the Government to function in the full limelight of publicty. The entire machinery of Parliament is geared to that effect. Our objective today is a socialist society and it is here that we run into the first hurdle. The newspaper which is the means of conveying and giving expression to our ideas belongs to a sector of economy called the private sector. The second and perhaps the bigger obstacle is that the law of libel hangs like the sword of Democles over the head of every editor and correspondent and keeps impressing on him how precarious his existence is. Any newspaper which today publishes the proceedings of our legislatures does so at considerable risk and throws itself open to both civil and criminal action. The law of libel operates like a kind of silent censor and in a way prevents people from knowing that which they have a right to know.”

(Mainstream, February 7, 1976)

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