It is Our Bounden Duty To Speak Against Spreading Of Misinformation And Bigoted Ideas: Justice Shantanagoudar

It is Our Bounden Duty To Speak Against Spreading Of Misinformation And Bigoted Ideas: Justice Shantanagoudar

"As the technology of mass communication continues to grow in leaps and bounds, it is our solemn responsibility to prevent and speak up against acts spreading any misinformation or idea that is bigoted and plays upon anyone's ignorance or vulnerability. In both the short-term and the long-run, bigotry and divisiveness deprive a nation of the peace and prosperity that can only come through unity amongst her people", the judge said.

Supreme Court judge and former Chief Justice of High Court of Kerala Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar highlighted the dangers of divisive ideas being promoted aggressively in society, and exhorted the need to rely on rationality and critical thinking to fight bigotry.

He was speaking at a convocation ceremony at the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi on Sunday.

"The current global political climate is governed by fear and hatred of the Other. The "Other" is anyone who is not the same as oneself on any perceived marker of identity such as nationality, religion, caste, ethnicity, skin colour, language, sex or gender, and so on."

He added that in a country as diverse as India, there were many "fault lines" in society on basis of religion, caste, community, language etc, which are capable of being exploited for "political mileage".

"Those who seek political mileage find it very easy to promote violence and unrest and divide the population by exploiting people's fear of being attacked and of being deprived of what is rightfully theirs. In a country as diverse as ours, naturally, there may exist many fault-lines which threaten to split our people apart, such as religious discord, casteism, regionalism, sexism and patriarchy, and so on and so forth", he said.


The availability of mass media and internet to propagate misinformation is compounding the intensity of bigotry.

"As the technology of mass communication continues to grow in leaps and bounds, it is our solemn responsibility to prevent and speak up against acts spreading any misinformation or idea that is bigoted and plays upon anyone's ignorance or vulnerability. In both the short-term and the long-run, bigotry and divisiveness deprive a nation of the peace and prosperity that can only come through unity amongst her people".

Highlighting the need to root for rationality and critical thinking to fight divisive ideas, he said.

"To be able to fight the divisive ideas being aggressively propagated nowadays, first of all, one needs to be firmly rooted in rationality and critical thinking, of which the cardinal rule is to never accept any idea or proposition at face value, but to determine its validity by critiquing and questioning it. Equally important, however, is a sense of inclusivity and empathy. It would do us all well to remember that what makes our country truly great is its beautiful composite culture, which is founded upon the principles of inclusion and integration. To go against these ideals is to destroy the very fabric out of which the rich tapestry of our nation is built"

He cautioned law graduates against falling prey to culture of "consumerism" and "individualism", which pressurise people to take decisions based on monetary rewards than ethical considerations. He implored the students "to persevere towards fulfilling your role not only as ethical lawyers, but also your duties as citizens of this nation, which is something we often forget in our zeal to light for our rights and entitlements".

"Classism, elitism and income equality are other battles that urgently need to be fought the world over, and in India as well. As I have mentioned before, those like us who have been blessed and privileged enough to receive quality education must use it for the benefit of all. In particular, as practicing advocates, it is essential to assist those who lack the resources to challenge either the State or the influential and mighty of society. Needless to say, providing free legal aid goes a long way in securing access to justice for a person of insufficient means. Remember that whenever you are called upon to provide free legal aid or undertake to do so voluntarily, discharge your role cheerfully, expeditiously and with due diligence. Your dedication to your work should not be determined by the amount of recompense you receive for it", he said.

Read Full Text Of Speech.

A very good morning to the esteemed Chancellor-the Hon'ble Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court, the Vice-Chancellor, distinguished guests, teachers, staff, invitees, proud parents, dear students and budding advocates. I thank this esteemed institution for inviting me to be a part of this moment of celebration, and extend my heartiest congratulations to one and all, especially the young men and women who have worked hard over the last few years to reach this juncture.

Of course, this is only the beginning of an entirely new chapter in your lives, which, I am sure, will be as challenging as it would be exciting. I have had the privilege of attending the convocation ceremony held at this institution in 2017, in my capacity as Chancellor, when I was serving as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala. I am happy to see the same exuberance and enthusiasm on your faces that I observed two years ago in the case of your seniors. I trust that you will remain as passionate as you are today, in the years to come. At the same time, all of you must forge your path ahead with wisdom, keeping in mind your solemn responsibility as citizens of this country equipped with a prestigious education, which you must use with the utmost sensitivity to the needs of the weak and vulnerable, and in a selfless and ethical fashion.

Society today is caught in a web of consumerism and individualism, which naturally also influences the way in which people make decisions about their careers. Decisions about choice of career, choice of client, pricing one's services, and so on are motivated by a sense of entitlement towards getting the best possible reward for one's work. Along the way,youngsters who start out with a strong sense of ethics and of duty towards/ their community become caught-up in the race of earning money as fast as possible. As you embark upon the momentous journey that each of your careers will be, I implore you to persevere towards fulfilling your role not only as ethical lawyers, but also your duties as citizens of this nation, which is something we often forget in our zeal to light for our rights and entitlements. However, I am quite certain that all of you who proceed to pursue a career in law will, with discipline, diligence and perseverance, become highly proficient in your held in due time.

Keep in mind that the Constitution is a living, breathing text which is constantly evolving according to the needs and aspirations of the people of this nation, even as it rests on the bedrock of values such as democracy and human rights. In such a situation, the responsibility to help it evolve further rests squarely on the shoulders of bright youngsters like you, for which it is absolutely necessary to be cognizant of all the problems that this nation faces, and of all the ways in which whole sections of our population are being ignored and marginalized, not only by the rest of society, but also by lawmakers and law enforcers. One's duty to help the downtrodden is not limited to providing them quality legal representation for free or at affordable rates, thereby increasing their access to justice, but also includes being agents of change to mould the law to better protect them. This is a fundamental aspect of our duty towards nation-building.

It would not be out of place for me at this point to draw your attention to some of the most pressing problems that our country presently faces.

The current global political climate is governed by fear and hatred of the Other. The "Other" is anyone who is not the same as oneself on any perceived marker of identity such as nationality, religion, caste, ethnicity, skin colour, language, sex or gender, and so on. Those who seek political mileage find it very easy to promote violence and unrest and divide the population by exploiting people's fear of being attacked and of being deprived of what is rightfully theirs. In a country as diverse as ours, naturally, there may exist many fault-lines which threaten to split our people apart, such as religious discord, casteism, regionalism, sexism and patriarchy, and so on and so forth. As the technology of mass communication continues to grow in leaps and bounds, it is our solemn responsibility to prevent and speak up against acts spreading any misinformation or idea that is bigoted and plays upon anyone's ignorance or vulnerability. In both the short-term and the long-run, bigotry and divisiveness deprive a nation of the peace and prosperity that can only come through unity amongst her people.

Of course, it goes without saying that such ideas also impinge upon the security and integrity of the nation.

To be able to fight the divisive ideas being aggressively propagated nowadays, first of all, one needs to be firmly rooted in rationality and critical thinking, of which the cardinal rule is to never accept any idea or proposition at face value, but to determine its validity by critiquing and questioning it. Equally important, however, is a sense of inclusivity and empathy. It would do us all well to remember that what makes our country truly great is its beautiful composite culture, which is founded upon the principles of inclusion and integration. To go against these ideals is to destroy the very fabric out of which the rich tapestry of our nation is built.

Classism, elitism and income equality are other battles that urgently need to be fought the world over, and in India as well. As I have mentioned before, those like us who have been blessed and privileged enough to receive quality education must use it for the benefit of all. In particular, as practicing advocates, it is essential to assist those who lack the resources to challenge either the State or the influential and mighty of society. Needless to say, providing free legal aid goes a long way in securing access to justice for a person of insufficient means. Remember that whenever you are called upon to provide free legal aid or undertake to do so voluntarily, discharge your role cheerfully, expeditiously and with due diligence. Your dedication to your work should not be determined by the amount of recompense you receive for it.

Finally, problems related to sustainable development, sustainable consumption, overpopulation and stress on environmental resources are also in need of solutions which I hope your generation will help us find further answers to, which is all the more urgent as we are witnessing environmental tragedies of increasing magnitude day by day. At this juncture, I would like to take a moment to appreciate the great fortitude, selflessness, perseverance and resilience displayed by the people of this state, and indeed of this institution, in dealing with the tragedy of floods that befell Kerala last year. Indeed, environmental protection is a peculiar problem not only because of the obvious need to preserve the environment for its own sake and for the sake of our own future, but also because of the war-like effect of environmental disasters on their victimswthose who suffer become vulnerable to exploitation, especially those already living on the margins of society.

I am certain that some amongst you will choose one of these problems that I have discussed above as your cause and dedicate your life to it. However, all of you must keep in mind that it is not necessary for you to build a career around a cause in order to support it. Whatever field you end up in, give it your best, and be aware of the problems plaguing society, making it your constant endeavour to look for ways to contribute in whatever way possible. At the risk of repetition, I emphasize that one must always be cognizant of the fact that the law as it exists may not be fully perfect, and may be blind to power imbalances, and your role in this scenario is to act towards the correction of such power imbalances.

It is one's duty to look out for the marginalized, the downtrodden and the vulnerable, be it women, children, the old and inhrm, the poor, the lower castes, tribals, and so on, and it is worth stressing that one must also keep in mind that often a person belongs to two or more of these categories simultaneously, which makes their experience of marginalization, exploitation and oppression different, and indeed unique. For instance, the experience of an aged, widowed and disabled Dalit woman is different from that of a young, married and able-bodied upper caste woman. Both are women subjected to patriarchal norms, and in this sense, there will be certain experiences common to both, yet each will face patriarchy in unique forms arising from the intersection of their various identities based on age, marital status, disability, caste and gender. While our Constitution guarantees nondiscrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth, it is uncertain as of now whether we protect those with a unique experience of discrimination due to intersectionality, which makes it all the more important for us to address the concerns of those experiencing such intersectional oppression.

At the same time, as advocates, many of you, at some point or the other, will feel that you are required to set aside your personal beliefs and values while representing a client. In fact, in criminal matters, often the ghastlier the crime, the more difiicult it is for the accused to obtain effective legal representation so as to even the balance of power against the vast resources of the State. It is in such matters that your assistance would be needed most. Do not let societal sanction discourage you from doing your best, as long as you do not give in to the temptation of resorting to unfair or illegal means to obtain a victory for your client. The duty of an advocate is not only to give all possible legal assistance to his or her client, but also to assist the court as an officer in upholding the ideals of justice, and to conduct himself or herself in a manner fitting the nobility of the profession.

I would like to end by recalling that knowledge without wisdom is like a ship without captain, which may be capable of taking you far, but needs to be guided and steered in order to carry you to your destination. Thus, I believe that one's education, howsoever high it may be, achieves its purpose only if it is used with a sense of humility and responsibility, blended with selflessness, empathy, and a sense of community and oneness. It is my sincere hope that all of you live up to these ideals to the best of your ability, and do the very best in life.

Thank you and congratulations again! )ai Hind.