New Delhi blasts media, says Modi will stay

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared that India will not bow to any political pressure or pressure from abroad, a day after India’s top court struck down his government’s landmark defamation laws.

Mr Modi said the decision to suspend the defamation laws and move toward a national digital economy was “a decision that will not be taken lightly”.

“If people ask me how I am going to get rid of the laws, I am not going to lie.

I am committed to the fight,” Mr Modi said in a televised address from the capital.”

The only reason why I am here today is to explain the reasons behind my decision,” he said.

He said he had decided to make this decision because of the need to move toward digital India and a national debate on the future of democracy.

“I am taking this decision to ensure that the nation is free from political interference.

I have decided to withdraw the defamation law, which has been in place for almost a century, and I will be giving directions to the law enforcement agencies to take appropriate action against those who have breached it,” Mr Mr Modi told reporters.

Mr Amit Shah, who took over as India’s chief minister earlier this month, said the laws had been abused by some media organisations to tarnish the image of the ruling BJP party.

“We have a national consensus on the need for a robust democracy.

The Prime Minister has expressed that and we will follow that,” Mr Shah said.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Mr Modi also said that the judiciary had not been the victim of political interference and that the country would continue to take the high road.

“If there is any attempt to make me a martyr, then I will certainly take action against whoever it is,” he told reporters in New Delhi.

Mr Shah, whose party is currently in opposition, said his party would not bow before the political pressure of the opposition and would fight hard against those seeking to undermine India’s democratic institutions.

“Our government will not give up on our democracy.

We will not allow anyone to make it worse.

The government will fight every day against those making life hell for the people,” he added.

India’s top human rights court ruled in February that the defamation of Mr Modi was a criminal offence, a blow to Mr Modi who had been widely expected to win a second term in office in 2019.

The decision sparked protests from the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which accused the court of bias against it.

Mr BJP said it would contest the election on a platform of a “free, fair and transparent India”.

“Our democracy is the right of all, including the Muslim community, the Dalit community, women and the LGBT community,” Mr Singh told reporters on Thursday.

The ruling, which also struck down laws that were aimed at curbing “anti-social elements” such as communal violence and hate speech, was expected to lead to a national reckoning on the way India deals with the country’s growing intolerance.

Mr Singh was speaking at a time when he is facing a high-stakes political battle ahead of an election in which he has pledged to deliver an even greater economic growth rate.