The present blog focuses on the recent controversy of the Tanishq advertisement and some recent such incidents which the party of the community found insensitive or hurting religious sentiments. The backlash faced displays an element of Religious Intolerance. The legal angle along the sociological theories has been discussed.

Introduction

In the world’s largest democracy, is it possible to stop people to freely express their views? The answer would be the reasonable restrictions given in Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution against free speech and expression which imposes a bar on freedom of speech and expression on the basis of public morality, decency, etc. The question was in the context of the advertisement stuck down by the Tanishq jewelers. The advertisement showed a Hindu bride in a Muslim family which has outraged the feelings of Hindus and after long opposition in various ways shown by the people, the advertisement was removed with an apology.  The questions that arise here are:

  • What was wrong with the advertisement?
  • Is it illegal to marry inter-faith?
  • Was the taking down of the advertisement required?
  • Was taking portray of the ad otherwise would have made it acceptable?

Legal provisions related to Religious Intolerance

The answer to all the questions above would be negative because the Constitution of India contains a preamble in which the words – secular, and liberty of thought, the expression is inclusive. The constitution provides a fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression which simply means that every person is entitled to freely express his or her views.

Secondly, under the special marriage act, two adults of different religions can marry, create a family and it is totally legal.

Moreover, the Advertisement standard council of India which is a self-regulating body to examine decency, truthfulness, honesty, acceptability by the society also released a statement clarifying that the ad was not violating any of the said standards and guidelines specified by them.

Thus, what lead to the apology, and a sense of fear in the apology letter will be answered in the following write up.

Religion and religiosity play an important role in an advertisement’s appreciation. 1Tariq, Mohd. (2017). Offensive advertising: a religion based Indian study. Journal of Islamic Marketing. But, we are a secular country therefore we need to respect the religious beliefs of each other and India has no religion. Therefore, an advertisement showing diversity and unity of religions should be respected.

Sociological Theory and Analysis

Religious Intolerance

The loophole if any in the advertisement cannot be seen except with the glasses of insecurity which will evidently create a sense of loss of majority or conversion of religion or a fine blend of Muslims in the country. Karl Marx, father of conflict theory stated that society is dynamic and people of the society are in constant conflict with each other for resources, power, identity, etc. in the present case either the majority seems to have a fear of overpowering by minority and here the conflict is in relation to the power and identity of each community. Or the majority of the religious community seems to gain a force through which they can do whatever they want in favor of their religion without showing respect to the diversity of other religions. As in India Hindus are 96.62 Crores while Muslims are only 17.22 Crores. So India is not the right place for those who lack power and the majority.

Apparently, India is a diversified country, and all people of different religions, caste, languages live together peacefully. But recent violent incidents including the Hindu saints beaten to death, a Hindu girl shot dead in Delhi naming it Love-Jihad, etc. are the incidents showing exactly the opposite of what India present itself in the world and what our constitution drafting committee had a vision of India. The social integration of the Indian society of the minorities in the society is still not accepted and is not harmonious in the constantly changing society which is technologically, morally, ethically constantly changing.

Similar instances and broadcasting committee reaction

Similar outrage was seen when the surf-excel advertisement was surfaced in which a Hindu girl was seen protecting a Muslim boy on the eve of Holi so that he can go for his prayers to the mosque untouched with the colors.

Likewise, recently hairstylist JavedHabib’s hoarding released in Kolkata showing the deity Durga along with other deities went to the salon for a haircut, and the makeover was not appreciated and received backlash for it. And finally, lead to an apology from the owner. The humanization of the goddess or the Javed Habib putting the advertisement, which was not accepted by the populace, is a question to ponder.

Also, the recent announcement of Chief Minister MR. Yogi Adityanath announced the strategic development of law against Love-jihad and the prevention of the marriage of Hindu daughters in Muslim families.

The above examples based on the recent social media outrage states the religion is the crown of Indian society. Religion plays an important part in the success and failure of an advertisement in the world, especially in India. The communal divide to gain party seats lead to creating an actual divide which created an intolerant environment. The government recently in power visibly supports Hinduism and associate themselves with the Hindu religion. This is not incorrect but the face leading a country should give power to all the religions residing in it and not any particular religion. In the present case, we can see that Hindus are feeling that they found god’s hand from heaven leading them to him.

Religion acts as opium, for society and the people follow it without thinking of any other community of society and can harm to any extent. Religion helps to create a moral base but at the same time, blind faith in it creates a divide in society.

Legal Remedies Available Against Social Media Trolls  

Religious Intolerance

The social media trials and trolls are a rising threat to individuals as they act as mental and even life-threatening at times. The trolls at times act as positive criticism but most of them create danger and ultimate apology and allegation on the trolled individual or organization.

Few discussed below are the legal provisions available that can be invoked in case of illegal accusations:

Section 66A of the IT Act, provides punishment and fines for those who are sending offensive messages through communication devices, mails, computers, etc. these also include messages on social media and can be arrested by the police if found so. But the section has been held unconstitutional in the recent case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, 2(2013) 12 S.C.C. 73. stating the section is contrary to Article 19(1)(a) and the terms use in the said section are vague and subject to many interpretations.

Although, the complaints are still filed under this section and are used. For example, recently a lecturer has been arrested for derogatory comments in Assam under section 66A.

Apart from this section, Section 295A of IPC is available which talks about deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs and provides punishment for the same can be invoked.

Also, Section 153A states promoting antagonism between different communities or groups on the basis of race, religion, sex, caste, etc. which prejudicial to harmony shall be punished with fine and punishment specified in this section.

Further, section 499 talks about defamation which means words either spoken or written published i.e., come to the knowledge of the third party to harm the reputation of the person are punishable under Section 500 of IPC.

The above provisions can be invoked for removing or minimizing social media trolls and religious intolerance.

Conclusion and suggestions

The above incidents discussed and the concepts behind the advertisements seen without the religious or other biased specs show that the advertisements were made in good faith and with the intent to display harmony in diversity which India projects in front of the world. Thus, there’s a need to take the things as they are without adding the flavors to them which are not present or portrayed is required which is possible only by creating an actually educated youth which works without any biases towards each other irrespective of their caste, creed, and religion. Further, the basic fundamental rights and human rights should be respected and everyone should be allowed to exercise their rights.

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