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Right to dissent, and its validity

What is Dissent

Dissent means “a strong difference of opinion on a particular subject, especially about an official suggestion or plan or a popular belief”.

India’s constitutional democracy is predicated on the people’s right to call state power to account.

Even at Household level also, there is no family without dissent between parents and the children, or between the siblings. A family which learns to deal with dissent rather than authoritatively dismissing it is a more harmonious family.

Types of Dissent

There are three types of dissent: articulated, latent, and displaced.


Involves expressing dissent openly and clearly in a constructive fashion to members of an organization that can effectively influence organization adjustment.


Employees resort to expressing dissent to either their co-workers or other ineffectual audiences within the organization. Employees employ this route when they desire to voice their opinions but lack sufficient avenues to effectively express themselves.


Involves expressing dissent to external audiences, such as family and friends, rather than media or political sources sought out by whistle-blowers.

Political Dissent.

Political dissent is dissatisfaction or opposition from the policies of a governing body. Expressions of dissent can take from vocal dissent as the use of violence for civil disobedience. In some political systems, dissent can be formally expressed through opposition politics, while politically repressive regimes can restrict any form of dissent, which may lead to suppression of dissent and an encouragement of social or political activism. Individuals who do not conform or support the policies of certain states are known as "dissidents". Several thinkers have argued that a healthy society needs not only to protect, but also to encourage dissent.

Importance of Dissent.

Dissent is essential in a democracy. If a country has to grow in a holistic manner where not only the economic rights but also the civil rights of the citizen are to be protected, dissent and disagreement have to be permitted, and in fact, should be encouraged. It is only if there is discussion, disagreement and dialogue that we can arrive at better ways to run the country.

“In point of fact, Section 66A is cast so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it, as any serious opinion dissenting with the mores of the day would be caught within its net. Such is the reach of the section and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total.”

Legal Rights on Dissent

“The Right to Dissent is the Most Important Right Granted by the Constitution: Justice Gupta”

To question, to challenge, to verify, to ask for accountability from the government is the right of every citizen under the constitution. These rights should never be taken away otherwise we will become an unquestioning moribund society, which will not be able to develop any further.

The Preamble to the Constitution of India promises liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. Clauses (a) to (c) of Article 19(1) promise: -

freedom of speech and expression;

Freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms;

And the freedom to form associations or unions;

The right of freedom of opinion and the right of freedom of conscience by themselves include the extremely important right to disagree. The right to disagree, the right to dissent and the right to take another point of view would inhere inherently in each and every citizen of the country.

The difference between protest and dissent.

Protesters dissent, and dissenter’s protest. Is there a difference?

Of course, or this wouldn’t be a column.

Both “protest” and “dissent” can be a noun or a verb. Add a suffix and you have a “dissenter” or a “protester.” (Only one, though can be spelled a different way: You can be a “protestor,” but not a “dissenter.”)

They both mean to express outrage from something, usually of a political or social nature. In legal terms, a “dissent” meant to express a minority view.

Merriam-Webster says that the noun “dissent” is “a difference of opinion,” with other definitions including “political opposition to a government or its policies.” The intransitive verb is “to withhold assent or approval.” (Yes, “assent” is an antonym to “dissent.”)

“Dissident” has more of a political tint than “protester,” and “dissident” is more likely to be applied to someone “protesting” policies of a foreign government than those of India. Everyone who is “protesting” is probably “dissenting,” but not every “protester” is a “dissident.”

Legal Aspects.

As we found protest is different from dissent. We have the right to dissent.

But the rights of protest are very limited and none of these rights are absolute in nature. After giving our feet in protest, we inadvertently become involved in violence and illegal activities, resulting in legal punishment.

I am mentioning few of the laws related to punishments –

Section 153A criminalizes and punishes statements, speeches or acts that have the effect of disturbing public peace or law and order by promoting enmity between sections of people based on differences in religion, caste, language or place of birth or by creating fear or alarm among sections of people.

Section 505, on the other hand, criminalizes making statements, reports or rumor's that encourages members of armed forces or a police officer to refuse to perform his duty, encourages a person to commit offences against the state or disturb public tranquility and incites persons to disturb public tranquility.

Offences committed under both sections are cognizable which means that an accused can be arrested without a warrant.

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