Competition year: 2004
About Nishith Gupta
1. General Introduction To Civil Liberty
Today no problem is more compelling that that of ensuring all peoples their basic civil rights without discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, national origin, or sex. What should our government and we do to protect civil rights and to extend opportunity for those who have been discriminated against? Such questions have been important for centuries and their magnitude is still reflected in political elections, local or national, and on international podium as in United Nations. Denial of civil liberties not only negates the declarations made by international bodies; most of the times, it is also contrary to the guarantees of many national Constitutions.
Certain liberties are vital to the operation of a responsible government. Long ago, they were called natural rights; today we speak of human rights – but the belief is still the same: the primacy of people over government, and the dignity and worth of each individual. I have tried to review some these rights, everyone deserves. Many of these are interrelated and there is no good way to depict them discretely. However, my endeavor is to look at each of these liberties from its own point of view.
2. Principle Civil Liberties, People Largely Agree On
2.1 Free Speech And Opinion
Elections and constitutional guarantees would be meaningless unless all have rights to speak frankly and to hear and judge for them the worth of what others have to say. Government by the people is based on every person’s right to speak freely, to organize in groups, to question the decisions of the government, and to campaign openly against it. Only through free and uncensored expression of opinion can a government be kept responsive to the people.
Believers in egalitarianism insist on vigorous debate and the unlimited exchange of ideas because they are convinced that no group has a monopoly on truth. To create such an environment, in the field of politics no group should have the right to establish absolute standards of what is true and what is false. As justice Holmes wrote: “The best of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”
Despite the fundamental value of free speech in a representative democracy, some people believe that speech should be free only for those who agree with them. Once we move to the level of specific questions or conflicts, there is a discouragingly low level of support for free speech. Many ask why evil or ignorant persons should be permitted to spread lies and confuse others? Why should a person be allowed to utter dangerous ideas that stir up trouble among the people or subvert our society. Free speech is not simply the personal right of individuals to have their say; it is also the right of rest of us to hear them. John Stuart Mill, whose Essay on Liberty is the classic defense of free speech, put is this way: “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion, is that it is robbing the human race…If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clear perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”