How the social media has exposed the working of machinery in India

Synopsis

This paper endeavours to explore the many ways in which the social media has helped reveal the working of the government organs in the Indian democracy. We shall start by taking a look at how journalism has evolved over the years into a more democratized form and try and answer whether democratization of a right should come at a cost of a depreciation in its quality. Further we shall look in detail how different organs of the government – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – have become more transparent due to the use of social media while asking ourselves if they really have. At the end, we shall conclude by taking a comprehensive and an objective look at the state of affairs.

While the topic of fake news goes hand in hand with the functioning of social media, it is beyond the scope of this article. However, the relevant sections have been covered.

Introduction

The three organs of a democratic government, namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary work in tandem with each other to ensure a smooth functioning of “the system”. These bodies strictly avoid stepping into the other’s jurisdiction. The federal government, with well defined scopes, also has little movable space above and below. In this state, the role of the fourth pillar of the government – namely the media becomes crucial in bringing out to us, the people – what goes on behind the curtain and under the table.

Journalists, through newspapers, magazines, television and independent news outlets bear the responsibility to make people-government transactions fair and transparent. So that, if in breach of their service to the people, our representatives could be held accountable.

Qualifying as a journalist has increasingly become institutional with a rise in capitalist ventures entering the media market. Ground reporters, with little or no academic footing, are finding it increasingly difficult and unsafe to avail themselves a platform. Prime time journalists that dared question the government have been laid off. In times such as these, with a camera phone and readily available internet, an individual carries the resources and the potential to report their own stories.

What started with Rodney King in 1991- citizens filming and posting instances of injustice around them- has only increased in number over the years. With social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, it has become increasingly easier to post your content. What impact this has had on the working of the government in Indian democracy is an interesting case study.

Apart from a liberalized way of sharing stories, it is easy for a meaningful piece to get lost in a whirlwind of what millenials call “shitposting”. Netflix is a case in point. Moreover, there have been certified reports of the presence of news outlets that are dedicated to publish false news.

Let's take a look at how different bodies of the Government have been affected by the social media.

The Legislature

While asking for legislative transparency in a representative democracy sounds like asking for heat in a volcano – with elected representatives being accountable to people they represent and bound by provisions like the question hour, the Right to Information Act and other strict measures. However, across the world, social media has made it easier for people to have a say in how they would like to be governed – to take up issues and causes that are important to them and ensure a politician does not hijack it for personal gain. Arab Spring is case in point of why the social media has been heralded as a technology for liberation, that too as early as 2011. A few examples closer to home include – Lokpal Bill movement by Anna Hazare where millions expressed their solidarity through facebook and twitter; during the gut wrenching Delhi Gangrape case- social media played a pivot role in mobilizing people to India Gate. No doubt T.V. was telecasting all the developments in the case but it was mobile phone which was updating those seating on streets. Every item was reaching them on their telephone via Facebook and Twitter etc. The massive protests led the govt to line up Justice Verma committee to bring changes in Rape law.

The other poignant examples include – the Telangana movement, on an international level – the 2016 presidential elections in the USA, Arab Spring and others. With such a lot ‘buzz’ being created about social media and as more youngsters are joining in, the political parties have finally woken up to its importance. Everyone is recognizing this new and powerful medium to interact with the masses and make them participate and thereby enabling better communication. Indian politicians, be it young or old have started experiencing the impact of social media in one form or the opposite . Now, almost every party used the social media to urge their message across the masses.

The Executive

The Union executive consists of the President, the Vice-President, and thus the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister because the top to help and advise the President. On the opposite hand, the State Executive includes the Governor and Council of Ministers, headed by the Chief Minister. With government run portals, websites and social media handles, it's difficult to access the individuals that structure the chief body of the govt . However, the social media has positively impacted the executive organ within the way that now disseminating information has become easier and price effective.

While the main target of the present government has been on digitalising most facets of our lifestyle , a scarcity of institutional support and ill-formed plans have obstructed the cause. Regardless, the late Union Foreign Affairs Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj was known to possess rescued stranded people after they might contact her on her official twitter page. Hence social media, with its plethora of pros and cons has been largely beneficial to the chief body of the Indian government.

The Judiciary      

The wide reach and prevalence of social media presents unprecedented opportunities to the judicial community to remain connected to the community they serve. Union Law Minister Mr. Shankar Prasad may be a proponent of the judicial use of the social media. “I am a superb supporter of social media and freedom. i do know it's empowering. but (there) may be a dangerous trend. Judges must be left completely independent to offer judgement as what they think is that the correct mode in accordance of the rule of law.” He had remarked. Conclusively, there are risks and challenges inherent within the use of social media by the judiciary. as an example , a learned jurist writes an opinion piece about an ongoing case during a national newspaper. This gets published on the social media and is widely read (the example mentioned springs from a standard habit within the legal community). Exposure to the public’s remarks and sentiment towards a case before trial can have an impact on judges who in any case are only human. Judges have another responsibility within the use of social media where they not only need to be cognizant about what they post but also about what content they consume and from whom.

In 2011, the International Bar Association Legal Policy & Research Unit (IBA LPRU), formerly referred to as the IBA Legal Projects Team, administered a worldwide survey to think about the impact of Online Social Networking (OSN) on the bar . The survey revealed that judges’ use of social media raised specific concerns. While only 15% of respondents felt lawyers’ use of OSN negatively affected the general public image of the profession, 40% responded that judges’ use of OSN negatively affected public confidence and undermined judicial independence.

After all Lord Atkins has said – “Justice isn't a cloistered virtue; she must be allowed to suffer within the scrutiny and respectful, albeit outspoken, comments of ordinary men.”

Conclusion

The advent of social media has enabled an unprecedented empowerment and engagement of the commoner for expressing politics thereby having another role and selection within the question of how he wants to be governed. A positive development of social media emergence has been that the youth is talking about the political issues. Earlier the political discussions were restricted only to people who read newspapers, watched news channels or participated in discussions in nukkad of a village or clubs – which within the last instance were savarna men or privileged urban people. But now, social networking has made the youth of India to require a seat up and discuss political issues. They spend time to research and discuss politics. They now have views on the happenings of political events which they also influence the chief deciding . But getting the youngsters together to settle on elections and using social media as a platform to help political parties remains a pipeline dream. it's going to take decades in India to duplicate USA within the utilization of social media campaigning and to influence the voters. Social media revolution within the Indian political space is real, tangible and accelerating. Though it's getting to not inaugurate huge changes immediately, but still it'll play an important role in creating political awareness, which in itself could also be an enormous breakthrough for a developing country like India. From a judicial perspective, the social media has not only enabled discussions on policies and practices that are carried forward over the years, but it's let the commoner be a celebration to judicial disagreements and discussions, as was evident within the Prashant Bhushan Contempt of Court case.

 

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Priaanti Thaakre Online
on 23 November 2020
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