ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Constitutional Limits to Ridicule


Do we have the right to ridicule? This question has become relevant in the present political context where members from different organisations are indulging in the game of ridiculing and counter-ridiculing. The Indian Constitution, however, does not allow the use of the right to ridicule, particularly when such a right tends to cause offence to certain social sections on the basis of race, gender, caste, language, region, and religion. The Constitution guarantees a right to expression that does not violate the basic sense of human dignity. Hence, the right to satire, to ridicule, is not an absolute right and can be exercised only with a reasonable constitutional as well as moral constraint. This would compel us to understand what is reasonable and unreasonable ridicule.

Arguably, reasonable expression with satire or ridicule may involve the capacity to rubbish and to refute. One may seek to rubbish the adversary with arguments that are well thought out but fatal to the latter’s stance, since they are based on hatred and sustained by prejudice that is ceaselessly cultivated by certain political parties. Refutation, regulated by a normatively controlled speech act, is still superior to the performative act of rubbishing by mere argument. It is superior on the grounds that it assumes the opponent also possessing some kind of argument. We need to ask this question in the current times to those television anchors who have no arguments to either rubbish or refute the dissenting voices. A speech act performed with a transformative intention of rubbishing and refutation may not lead people to feel offended because both these moves entail in them the moral energy to offer critique of the ruling power as well as the leaders from the opposition parties. When the leaders from the ruling power and some television anchors lack intellectual power to rubbish and refute the dissenting voices, they then resort to ridicule the latter. However, such an act of ridiculing is vacuous on the grounds that it is essentially devoid of arguments.

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Updated On : 11th Dec, 2021
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