India can be more democratic if the government encourages dissent, said former attorney general of India Soli Sorabjee in a recent interview.The 87-year-old jurist told The Hindu that even though dissenters aren't always punished in India, there exists a fear that they might be jailed, which was bad for a democracy.
"India can fare better; this atmosphere of fear must be removed," Sorabjee said in answer to whether dissent was tolerated well in the present Indian democracy. He said that though not all those who criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister's Office, or the government were put behind bars, there was still enough apprehension that they might be jailed. "That impression must go. The government must make solid efforts to encourage dissent, provided it is not abusive, of course."
"This is important because if dissent is not allowed, then it takes different forms, not very healthy forms, and finds outlet in other activities."
The eminent jurist has said earlier that it is the state's responsibility to protect the jurist. He has argued for freedom from intolerance under both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress governments.
"Intolerance stems from an invincible assumption of the infallibility of one's system, the dogmatic conviction about the rightness of one's tenets and beliefs and their superiority over others," he had written in 2010 in a column for Forbes magazine. "When intolerance reigns, reason takes a back seat."
Earlier this month, he wrote for The Indian Express: "In any civilised society, people will have different notions of what is good and beneficial for the country. A truly tolerant society grants a fair field and an honest race to all... It is wrong to consider a dissenter as a mischievous law-breaker or an anti-national or unpatriotic person. Remember, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
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