India’s highest court has ruled that its constitution does not guarantee freedom of speech or expression, in a landmark ruling that could potentially reshape the world of Indian politics.
India’s Supreme Court today rejected a petition filed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the case of an article in the Constitution of India that the country’s chief minister has said protects cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
India was one of a handful of countries to make such a constitutional amendment in the early days of the republic, in 2005, but the constitution, which has never been amended since, does not protect freedom of expression, as the US supreme court had said in 2009.
Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court was seen as a setback for the BJP, which had sought to use the ruling to defend its anti-establishment politics and push for the party to be allowed to form government in the state of Gujarat.
The party had also sought to have the ruling overturned on the grounds that the constitution was unconstitutional.
Chief Justice N.S. Thakur, who is overseeing the case, said he could not rule on the constitutionality of the Article 18 which protects cartoons from being printed in newspapers or in other places.
However, he said that the courts had to examine whether the article was clear in its application.
The Supreme Court in 2009 ruled that Article 18 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought, expression and assembly, was unconstitutional, but also ordered that the government should make amendments to it.
India has been divided since its independence from Britain in 1947.
It has been ruled by the Bharatiyan Janata party (Bjp) and the Bharat Ratna Party (BRP) since 2007.