By: Abdul Noor
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world... would do this, it would change the world.” – William Faulkner.
Today democracy is the most accepted form of governance as it allows the citizen to speak out their views regarding every decision the government makes. Democracy is of course of the people, by the people and for the people. So what makes democracy the most sort out among other forms of governance? Of course it’s the freedom to dissent. In another terms it is the freedom to dissent that makes democracy the best form of government there is.
Dissent is what makes our form of government entirely different from Hitler’s Germany. Dissent has the biggest influence in the people led government in any nation.
“Right to dissent is the most important right guaranteed by the constitution” – Justice Gupta.
Dissent means to differ in sentiment or opinion, especially from the majority. Dissent is an opinion, philosophy or sentiment of non-agreement or opposition to an already existing idea or policy which is enforced by the government or political party or any other individual who has the authority to do so.
Our democracy works on the principle that the democracy is by the people, is of the people and of course is for the people. The people elected government works for the people. The government has the authority to make rules, but if these rules are against the likes of the people it has to be questioned. The people hast the right to stand against the opinion of the government and prevent the government from enacting such rules. This is basically the role that dissent play in the democracy and right to dissent is guaranteed by the government.
Mahatma Gandhi stood against the British rule and demanded freedom of India and later in 1947; the current largest democratic country in the world became independent. Nelson Mandela stood against the oppressors and struggled for the freedom of South Africa. In fact, it can be seen that the history of progress of mankind development has a large influence of dissent.
If a certain policy against the like of the public is established by the governing body there is no need that everyone has to follow it. Rather such policies should be opposed by the public and the policies needed for the public should be supported. Dissent helps in establishing laws and policies which are does not violate the rights of the people.
Democracy is a form of government in which the people has the right to choose their governing legislations. When this people elected government establishes laws against the public policy the people has the right to stand against it. They can oppose such policies and demand what they want instead. This is how an efficient democracy works. For a democracy to be efficient and deliver what it promises to do, dissent is important.
Every society will have their own rules and policies. These policies may be accepted by everyone even though it’s against the public policy. As long as the people stick to these policies which are against the public, the society is in fact degenerating. When it is in the case of democracy, not only it is the violation of several rights but also democracy as a principle is being destroyed to the fullest. New thinkers are only created when they are ready to exercise their right to dissent and stand against these policies. Instead, if everyone keeps on following these already established unethical policies no changes will be made and democracy will just be a system of governance where the elected ones take advantage over the people.
If a person does not raise questions against unethical practices and fight for what is right no system would develop. For democracy to be as special as it says it must be questioned. The governance where people are the king must provide what is needed for them. Just because a principle is agreed by a section doesn’t mean everyone should adjust to it. Rather than that such practices must be questioned. Only then there would be development. It is a fact that democracy can only be developed to its fullest with the existence of dissent. Whether it was Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Raja Ram Mohan Roy new policies and principles which we agree today wouldn’t have been established if they had not raised their voice against the unethical practices.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DISSENT IN DEMOCRACY
Dissent is necessary for a country to grow. Dissent and democracy are often seen as synonymous. Freedom of dissent is essential in a democratic country. It is through open discussions and debate the voice of every citizen will be heard. Discussion, disagreement and dialogue are needed for an effective run of democracy.
Dissent is unavoidable in a democracy. Branding dissent as anti-national or anti-democratic is like acting against the constitution of India. For every decision that the governing body makes, the people has the right to express their opinion. If the public feels that certain law are against them or violates their rights, they have the right to raise their voice. They have the freedom to conduct strikes against the government in these scenarios. Government should always remember that it is the people who run the government. In a democratic country, the governing body is by the people, of the people and for the people.
When a certain law is enacted in our country, there will be those who are benefitted from that law and there are those whose rights are violated by that law. It may be a minority who are negatively affected by this law. But does that mean this minority to stay at this position where their rights are violated. No. They have the right to raise their voice against this. This is where dissent becomes important. Even its majority or minority section of the citizens of India, they have the right to fight against unethical policies and principles of the governing body in a democratic country.
Right to dissent also include right to criticise. A citizen has the right to criticize the laws and acts made by the government. They have the right to protest peacefully against acts and laws enacted by the government if they think it is against the public or if it violates their rights. It is the responsibility of a citizen to run the democracy. But this responsibility is not mere involvement in election. It is a citizen’s duty to raise his voice and criticise the acts of the governing body if it is against the principles of his or her nation. Dissent can be said as the essence of democracy. Without dissent democracy is not complete.
It is the right of the citizen to raise his voice against the unethical and illegal acts by the government. Constitution grants this right. The government has no right whatsoever to take this right away from any citizen. It is the citizen’s responsibility towards the nation to do so. He or she should protest against any action by the government which they feel is not right. The citizen has the right to protest against any acts of the government even if it is agreed by the majority of the nation. Even if any act is passed by the legislation, it doesn’t prevent or stops the citizen’s right to protest against. They have every right to protest and they should. It is how democracy works and essentially our nation develops. Development of the nation is not the mere development economically. The nation should develop socially too. For that dissent plays an important role.
Judiciary could also be criticized. Judiciary is not free from criticism by the citizens. If judiciary does make a judgement against the likes of the public it could be and should be criticised. But judiciary can also use dissent in a positive way. Dissent in the hands of a judge is a very powerful tool. When the judge does not agree in something which the majority does, the judge is free to express his dissent. For a nation like India it is important for the judiciary to be free to express its dissent.
RIGHT TO DISSENT
Dissent as a right has been recognised by the honourable Supreme Court of India as a part of the right to freedom which is guaranteed as a fundamental right by article 19(1) of the constitution of India.
The preamble of the constitution of India declares India to be a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic republic. It promises liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. Article 19 clause (a) to (c) promises the citizen of India of freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms and the freedom to form association or unions. These three freedoms are those through which dissent can be expressed. Freedom of speech and expression grants the citizens to raise their voice against the acts of the governing body which they find violating their rights. These three freedoms essentially grant the citizen right to disagree.
The right to disagree, the right to dissent and the right to take an alternative view from the rest is inherited by every citizen of the nation.
IMPORTANT CASES RELATED TO DISSENT
A.K. Gopalan vs. State of Madras : In this case the issue to be resolved was that whether the preventive detention act 1950 partly or fully invalid and whether the petition who were arrested under preventive detention act entitled to file a writ saying his arrest were illegal.
In this case majority had an opinion that the procedure of the preventive detention act to be legal. But J. Fazl Ali expressed a dissent view by saying that the procedure must be reasonable and fair.
Kharak Singh vs. State of U.P and Others: in this case the question aroused was whether right to privacy a fundamental right or not.
The majority decision was that right to privacy was not a fundamental decision. But Subba Rao, J had another view in which he said that right to privacy is a fundamental right.
Aadhar judgement 13: in this judgement justice Chandrachud held a different opinion regarding the constitutionality of the aadhar. While majority held that aadhar as constitutional, justice Chandrachud held aadhar to be unconstitutional.
Justice Indu Malhotra in Sabarimala: justice Indu Malhotra took a different stand from other justice in this case regarding the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 in the sabarimala temple.
Dissent is elementary in a democracy. Right to dissent is as important as right to live. In a democracy the governing body is elected by the people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the decisions taken by the government to be acceptable by the people. When such a decision is made by the government, it can’t be justified by saying that it was a people elected government that made the decision. Such decisions still violates rights of some of the people. When such laws and policies are enacted which some of the citizen feels is against then, there is a need to oppose it. Citizens have the right to raise their voice against it.
Dissent is necessary for a democratic government. Democratic nations are ruled by the people. When laws are enacted violating their rights it must be questioned. Right to dissent which is guaranteed by the constitution of India allows the citizen to oppose these decisions. It has to be said that without dissent, democracy is not complete. For a democratic nation to function efficiently dissent is necessary. Taking away the right to dissent by the government due to any reason is not justifiable in any manner.
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