Book review: Gautam Bhatia, Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution, Abhinav Chandrachud, Republic of Rhetoric: Free Speech and the Constitution of India and Anushka Singh, Sedition in Liberal Democracies

Date01 December 2020
AuthorJinee Lokaneeta
Publication Date01 December 2020
SubjectBook Reviews
300 Book Reviews
others sees rational choice as part of new institutionalism. While both positions are fine (there is a strain
of new institutionalism called rational choice institutionalism), the book is not clear about what the two
mean—either in conjunction or standing apart—for studies of institutions or politics. Again, while it sees
rational choice institutionalism as ‘best suited’ to study the internal functioning of institutions, it does not
adequately state what this approach stands for.
Third, the introduction emphasizes the need for a theoretical framework that is socially and culturally
specific and argues for moving away from theories and ‘stereotypical western models’ that were
developed to study the ‘advanced industrial democracies of the west’ (pp. 36–37). This contradicts the
argument made in the previous pages that rational choice and new institutionalism that came up to study
institutions in the United States ‘can be useful for India’ (p. 9) and are ‘best suited’ to study the internal
functioning of institutions (p. 7).
Fourth, the editor contends that the studies of institutions in India have been almost entirely society
oriented. While this is to some extent true, what is important is that an attempt started around the early
2000s to study state institutions in India in their own right with a focus on their internal dynamics and
relations with mass politics—whether it is the Parliament, Supreme Court, Panchayati Raj, Bureaucracy,
Election Commission or the Constitution itself.
Notwithstanding these anomalies, the book brings together expertise on specific state institutions,
which provide fresh evaluations of and useful insights on democratic politics in India. The editor in the
introduction also flags some useful issues about institutional perspectives that are vital for the study of
Manjari Katju
Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad
Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Gautam Bhatia, Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution. New Delhi:
Oxford University Press. 2016. 347 pp. `750. ISBN: 9780199488643
Abhinav Chandrachud, Republic of Rhetoric: Free Speech and the Constitution of India. Gurgaon:
Penguin Viking. 2017. 383 pp. `599. ISBN: 9780670090013
Anushka Singh, Sedition in Liberal Democracies. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2018.
331 pp. `995. ISBN: 9780199481699
DOI: 10.1177/2321023020963410
In February 2020, Amulya Leona, a 19 year old in Bangalore was charged with Section 124 A (sedi-
tion) and 153 A (creating enmity between groups) for raising slogans such as ‘Pakistan Zindabad [long
live Pakistan]’ in the context of protests against an anti-Muslim discriminatory citizenship law that the
Indian government had passed. Innumerable such incidents, especially in the last few years, have sug-
gested that ‘sedition’ and attack on free speech constitute one of the primary contradictions in India as
a liberal democracy. These three books collectively explain the origins, jurisprudence, and the role of
the state actors that enable this contradiction and the difficulties in challenging the restrictions on free
speech in India.
Abhinav Chandrachud’s book focuses on whether the Indian Constitution, enacted in 1950,
constituted a break in laws regarding freedom of speech and expression in India. Article 19 (1) of the

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