With due deference to prominent social activists and shapers of public opinion Venkatesh Narayan and Sandeep Pandey, and their insistence on the urgency and immediacy of the issue of freedom of expression,I would still like to propose that the right to privacy is of not less importance.After all freedom is indivisible as I had urged about three years back in a Newsclick article,though for clarity and convenience we divide it into separate legal compartments.
When Pegasus threatens freedom of expression,does it leave privacy alone? Not actually.
Privacy in my view is not an enclosed space insulated from the social.It is also a space where we form our convictions in dialogue with our selves and in intimate communion with others.Only then we can express such formed and articulate opinions.Such a process today has an online existence.If Pegasus has access to this process it can easily intervene in a myriad ways to forestall,sabotage and distort it.Hence while in special circumstances we can put on a particular fundamental liberty in the forefront, we may not put in the shade concern with other constitutional liberties.
In the first place can Pegasus infringe on freedom of expression unless it invades the privacy of people when they form expressions any opinion?
A moment’s reflection shows how other freedoms are intimately connected with freedom of expression.As Lenin had remarked caustically more than a hundred years ago freedom of expression is empty if the press,public platforms and scope for assembly and public ventilation of one’s views are denied to one holding such opinions.Without freedom of assembly and movement,freedom from inequality in the eye of law,indeed the priceless right to life itself,freedom of expression tends to become a forlorn cry in the wilderness.
After all apart from the conventional liberal views on the primary value of free conversations and even idiosyncratic opinions,the real end and good upheld by the freedom of expression is to awaken the individuals and rouse them to the actual state of society and the state,sound the alarm about any degradation of democracy,and ultimately to mobilise resistance against any covert or overt aggression against
democracy and the sovereign dignity of the individual.
Theoretically the very premise of democracy as an ideal system is the sovereign individual freely entering into a compact to sacrifice some purely personal claims for an association that ensures enjoyment of constitutional liberties that secure his life and dignity.Even if such an association emerges out of an amorphous tribal herd-like mass,it gradually grows conscious of and affirms this commitment to a democratic society and space.Socialist ideas that ignore this aspect in the construction of a uniform collectivity have in the end suffered collapse because of this original sin.
It is of utmost importance to underscore and reiterate this idea in the face of the multi-pronged and incremental attacks on ALL freedoms feeling their way ahead,now concentrating on this campaign,now on that.The indivisible freedom of citizens as a whole are under vicious and well-planned attack,to raise on its ashes an inhuman and tyrannical edifice of Rashtra.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator