Forty one years ago, on August 2, 1971, the High Court of Orissa had issued a judicial writ to the Government to stop prosecuting a new entrant to Orissa Education Service, B. Ramachandra for criticizing a Government policy in a newspaper, as to the Court, the nature and character of the decision of the Government would improve, only if Government servants are allowed to criticize it.
Ramachandra was facing prosecution for having contravened Rule 6(ii) and Rule 7(i) of Orissa Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1959 that prohibit publication of articles by Government servants criticizing the Government. The High Court, in quashing the prosecution against him, had also declared the said Rules “void”.
It was a day of victory for freedom of speech.
But alas! the Government of Orissa has not yet withdrawn the said two Rules and the Government servants are yet kept suppressed and intimidated in matter of sharing their informed views with the public as a result of which the Government is often taking wrong steps without knowing where its shoes pinch.
Therefore, AMOFOI, the ‘anti-caste marriage and one-child family organization of India, founded by Ramachandra, has resolved to observe August 2 as ‘Free Speech Day’ every year as celebration of the judicial writ and in order to mount pressure on the Government to amend itself in term of the said judicial writ.
This new campaign for free speech was launched on August 2, 2012 at the State Information Center (Jaya Dev Bhawan) Bhubaneswar under Presidentship of Prof. Biswaranjan. He held that every act of suppression of Government servants’ right to expression by using the rigors of Rules is nothing but indication to what extent administration is inflicted with malfunction. Whichever Government knows that it cannot give good governance, prefers to silence its employees by curbing their right to expression through creation and imposition of restrictive laws. Miles to go; yet initiation of observation of the ‘Free Speech Day’ is the best beginning in this regard he said.
Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Representative-in-chief of orissamatters.com Subhas Chandra Pattanayak was the guest of honor-cum-chief guest. He lauded AMOFOI for its decision to observe August 2 as Free Speech Day as free speech is the strongest weapon to defeat plutocracy that has taken over India through political treachery.
Advocate Chittaraanjan Nanda, a senior practitioner in Orissa High Court was the guest of honor, who gave an account of evolution of right to information from the right to freedom of speech and observed that the government has erred in not having dropped the restrictive provisions from the Conduct Rules by way of amendment, in view of the 1971 decision of the High Court.
Dr. Shashikant Acharya
Dr. Shashikant Acharya, Ex-Professor in Mechanical Engineering in REC, Rourkela, pointed out how the rational thinking contributes to free speech too. A government that do not discourage people’s mad rush into grip of blind beliefs cannot encourage free speech, he warned.
Dr. Bijayanand Kar
Dr. Bijayanand Kar, retired professor of Philosophy, Utkal University, strongly supported the free-speech-campaign, as to him any restriction on expression is anathema to evolution of society that human beings always dream for.
When John Omprakash, President of AMOFOI had welcomed the seminar, educationist Ms.Swapna Bijayini proposed the vote of thanks.
We place below the key-note address given by Prof. B.Ramachandra CST Voltaire, founder secretary of AMOFOI on whose case the Orissa High Court had issued the landmark order .
Prof. B.Ramachandra CST Voltaire
Lord Jagannath of Puri with his clones and other deities in each and every village of Orissa are being used to perpetuate caste system and social exploitation in the name of religion and thus a great obstacle to free thinking and free expression, despite advancement in technological modernity. Because of this theocratic backwardness, neither there was nor there is freedom of speech and expression in Orissa.
Freedom of speech is the essence of all that the best of thinking minds have prescribed for human society of the world.
Even as Tagore’s famous words in this respect were, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free, …….. into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”, the utilitarian thinker J . S. Mill’s work ‘On Liberty’ says, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would no more be justified in silencing that one person, than if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”. When Bertrand Russell said, “Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do, the opinions will suppress you”, Voltaire championed free speech in the following words: “I do not agree a word of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
The High Court of Orissa had issued a writ of this wisdom, in the case of B. Ramachandra, in 1971, by declaring “void” the Rules that restricted freedom of expression of government servants; but sad, the governments that have ruled over the State since then, have not complied with the High Court order. To campaign for its implementation, the Free Speech Day may lay the foundation.