- Justice DY Chandrachud said dissent is the safety valve of democracy
- The attemp to curb dissent instills fear, he added
- Justice Chandrachud's remarks come amid anti-CAA protests
Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud on Saturday described dissent as democracy's "safety valve", and said branding those who dissent as anti-national or anti-democratic "strikes at the heart of our commitment to protect constitutional values".
"Employment of state machinery to curb dissent instills fear and creates a chilling atmosphere on free peace which violates the rule of law and distracts from the constitutional vision of pluralist society," he said, addressing a gathering in Gujarat on the topic 'The Hues That Make India From Plurality to Pluralism', news agency PTI reported.
Justice Chandrachud's remarks come amid protests at several parts of the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
"The destruction of spaces for questioning and dissent destroys the basis of all growth--political, economic, cultural and social. In this sense, dissent is a safety valve of democracy," he said.
"The blanket labelling of dissent as anti-national or anti-democratic strikes at the heart of our commitment to protect constitutional values and the promotion of deliberative democracy," he added.
Justice Chandrachud said protecting dissent is but a reminder that a democratically elected government can never claim a "monopoly over the values and identities" that defines the country's plural society.
He said attacks on dissent are strikes at the heart of dialogue-based society and that it is the duty of the state to protect freedom of speech and expression.
"The attack on dissent strikes at the heart of a dialogue-based democratic society and hence, a state is required to ensure that it deploys its machinery to protect the freedom of speech and expression within the bounds of law, and dismantle any attempt to instill fear or curb free speech," he said.
Several people were killed last year in Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnakata after the anti-CAA protests had turned violent.
The government says the law makes it easier for persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to get Indian citizenship. Critics, however, say the law discriminates against Muslims.
On Saturday, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, which was hearing a plea by a Maharashtra man who wanted to protest against CAA, said people protesting against a law peacefully cannot be termed "traitors" or "anti-nationals".
With inputs from PTI