"One cannot rely only on the State for truth. Totalitarian governments are known for their constant reliance on falsehoods to consolidate power."Justice DY Chandrachud
Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud spoke his heart out with these words while delivering the sixth Chief Justice MC Mangla Memorial Lecture on "speaking truth to power". Justice Chandrachud premised his lecture on the argument that even in democracies, the state can indulge in falsehoods.
During his lecture, Justice Chandrachud highlighted the issue of "post-truth" – a scenario where even truth becomes contestable; when it comes down to "your truth" versus "my truth". He said that the "free marketplace of ideas" faces a test in this very post-truth world where citizens are finding it hard to find the truth.
'Even The Governments Can Lie'
Justice Chandrachud clearly stated in his lecture that even in democracies, the governments can indulge in falsehoods for political motives. He quoted the example of an official reporting on COVID-19 cases and deaths to substantiate his argument.
It can't be said that state will not indulge in falsehoods for political reasons even in democracies. In the context of COVID, we see that there is an increasing trend of countries across the world trying to manipulate data.Justice DY Chandrachud
He went on to reiterate the importance of "quest for truth" in a post-truth world. A world where there's a tendency to ignore the truth that doesn't align with one's own idea of truth.
"The search for truth must be a key aspiration for citizens. Our motto is Satyameva Jayate. We must be prepared to question the State and experts."Justice DY Chandrachud
Fake News on the Rise
Justice Chandrachud further identified the phenomena of "fake news" as another threat to truth.
"The phenomenon of fake news is on the rise. WHO recognised this during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it an 'infodemic'"Justice DY Chandrachud
He said that social media platforms , like Twitter, are spaces where "lies dominate". He argued that the algorithms and systems of social media corporations often amplify existing polarizations, which may drain the truth out by large amounts of information to the contrary.
"Human beings have a tendency to get attracted to sensational news, which are often based on falsehoods. Studies show lies dominate social media (platforms), like Twitter."Justice DY Chandrachud
However, he added that he doesn't deem it fit to comment on the suggestion made by some "experts" on regulation of social media.
Need To Strengthen Institutions
Justice Chandrachud categorically stated that the antidote to fake news and post-truth falsehoods is strengthening of institutions. He said that there's a need to have a press free from influence of any kind.
He also mooted for positive atmosphere in educational institutions where "students can learn to differentiate truth from falsehood (and) question those in power".
Not just the press, he envisions a greater role for the courts as well.
"Courts can play the role of recording public truth with their ability to document information from all parties involved after due process. In the suo motu cognizance taken on COVID, we have acknowledged this role of the Court in the context of pandemic."Justice DY Chandrachud
He also urged people to be kinder and more sensitive to those around them, saying, "We should not be quick to judge others for their opinions. We need to remove barriers based on gender, caste, religion, language, or economic status."