Monday, October 10, 2005

My Take on the IIPM Saga

After I wrote my last post, the IIPM matter has snowballed and has since spawned two legal notices, two threatening phone calls and one principled resignation. Desipundit has done a stellar job of assembling the many diverse voices in the Indian blogosphere that have united in condemning the appallingly strong arm tactics used by IIPM to silence criticism against the institute. Rather than rehash all that has been already been said, I would direct you to Desipundit and the excellent coverage on K's blog of the issues involved. Here's simply my impression of what are the most important issues at stake and why we should care:

Given the fact that I spent an entire summer translating the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code from English to simple, everyday Hindi (for a legal literacy series), I like to refer to the letter of the law when possible. So of course I looked up Sec. 499 of the Indian Penal Code that deals directly with defamation, a terribly antiquated piece of legislation conceived by the British colonial powers in 1860 to squash Indian dissent. The law has been heavily criticised by media and political activists in India, and is long overdue for reform. And certainly as long as it exists in it's present form, with possible prison sentences for presumed defamation, it would hang as a Damocles' sword over all who wish to practice free speech in India.

For those curious about the legislation, check out this excellent overview and the bare text of the Indian Penal Code whose Chapter XXI deals with defamation. Bear in mind that the law was drafted with only print material in mind, and jurispudence in India hasn't figured out a way to handle electronic media and the cyber world. As far as I am concerned, the law contravenes the Fundamental Right under Indian Constitution of freedom of speech and expression, and I'm surprised that it hasn't been challenged and struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India.

Certainly IIPM is well within it's rights to serve legal notice to JAM and Gaurav for presumed defamation. Given the past history of judgments on such cases (especially if the case can be taken directly to the Supreme Court under the Fundamental Right of freedom of speech and expression), I would presume IIPM doesn't have a chance in hell with this one. In fact if indeed push come to shove, there are any number of legal and civil rights activists in India who'd be more than happy to take IIPM to the cleaners for this attack on free speech.

But what really makes me angry and provokes a public stand are the shocking tactics adoped by IIPM to intimidate Gaurav into retracting his statements. The language of their presumed "legal notice" to Gaurav was offensive enough, but calling his employers at IBM and threatening them with retaliatory action if they didn't shut Gaurav down (which to its eternal credit, IBM didn't) is not only despicable, it is positively criminal. Such undemocratic behaviour has no place in civic society, and the least we can do (hapless common citizens that we are) is to keep it away from at least our educational institutions (since we seem to be woefully unable to stop such thuggery elsewhere in Indian civic space).

The other more minor point that I wish to make is an extension of what I said in my last post about Arindam Chaudhuri, so called management guru, and inexorably associated with IIPM (an institute he inherits from his father who founded it). Call me a snob, but I'm an out and out meritocrat. I do believe that you need to do something more than cobble together cliches and unleash a PR blitz to become a credible expert in something. As things stand, Arindam's published work or his professional contribution does not qualify him to become a a management guru (which I define to mean an expert in the field) by any possible intellectual assessment. And both the fields of professional and academic management have come a long way since the time that homilies could be passed off as management insights.

10 Comments:

Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

Boss! I am impressed! You spent a summer translating Indian Law!!!! Man I so wish I had friends who were doing atypical stuff. It scares me that from my undergrad class I am the one doing the most out there off the beaten track stuff! Obviously this comment is far from relevant to the subject matter of the post, but had to say that I am IMPRESSED!

12:37 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Oh dear, this is embarassing! Let me provide some context for my claim. I had to spend the summer working as an intern at a legal research programme as part of my Masters requirements. Hence my one and only brush with the law.

And speaking of being impressed, remember that someone is very much in awe of your institute :)! So of course far from being scared, you should consider yourself lucky that you didn't get sucked into the beaten path.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this relates to Law of Torts..nothing to do with IPC..

12:15 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

The law of torts is for the suit for damages. The actual charge of defamation does relate to IPC.

12:15 PM  
Blogger vuong said...

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6:46 PM  
Blogger vuong said...

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6:48 PM  
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6:48 PM  
Blogger vuong said...

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6:49 PM  
Blogger vuong said...

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6:10 PM  
Anonymous マークバイマークジェイコブス said...

And speaking of being impressed, remember that someone is very much in awe of your institute :)! So of course far from being scared,

12:19 AM  

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