NEW DELHI: Emphasising the need for truth in a democracy, Supreme Court Justice D Y Chandrachud said the state can indulge in falsehood for political reasons and it was the duty of citizens to strengthen public institutions and question the state to determine the truth.
“It can’t be said that the state will not indulge in falsehood for political reasons even in democracies. The role of the US in the Vietnam war did not see the daylight until the Pentagon papers were published. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, we see that there is an increasing trend of countries across the world trying to manipulate data. Hence, one cannot only rely on the state to determine the truth,” he said at a lecture in memory of jurist MC Chagla.
Calling for more vigilant and participation by the citizens and quoting Noam Chomsky, he said public intellectuals have a duty to expose the lies of the state. “As responsible citizens, we should put these truth providers through intense scrutiny and questioning to convince ourselves of the veracity of the claims made by them. It is equally important for those making truth claims to be transparent,” he said.
Recognising the importance of information disseminated by the press and the power to influence public opinion, he stressed on ensuring absolute freedom of the press. “There is no denying that the phenomenon of fake news is on the rise. We must strive to ensure that we have a press free of influence of any kind, political or economic, which will provide us information in an unbiased manner.”
Highlighting the importance of social media, Justice Chandrachud said, “We live in a post-truth world. Social media platforms are responsible but citizens are also responsible. We incline towards echo chambers and don’t like opposing beliefs. We live in a world that is increasingly divided along social, economic and religious lines.”
“It is important to consider why truth is so important to democracy, a form of governance adopted to avoid tyranny of the law and of the few. Truth is important in modern democracies which have been described as spaces of reason since any decision must be backed by adequate reason and because a reason based on falsehood, would be no reason at all,” he added.