The ban on sedition is right but the courts must stand against government repression

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There is a possibility that the imminent end of sedition will prompt police (and their masters) across the country to use other laws as a way to intimidate critics and silence journalists, human rights activists and opposition leaders.

(Image credit: Ahdieh Ashrafi/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was in court a day before the Supreme Court ordered a stay on the proceedings of India’s sedition law – Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code – till the central government completes its proposed review of the provision. Patent lied.

According to Live Law, Mehta said,[राजद्रोह के मामलों में] FIRs and investigations are done by the state governments. The Center does not do this.

What Mehta conveniently overlooked was that the Delhi Police—which is controlled directly by the central government through the Lieutenant Governor, is part of Home Minister Amit Shah’s empire—remembered several journalists (Mrunal Pandey) last year itself. , Rajdeep Sardesai, Zafar Agha, Vinod Jose, Ananth Nath) as well as Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, his fault was that he publicly claimed that the farmers’ protest in Delhi on January 26, 2021. The farmer who was killed during a protest was shot.

Most of the sedition cases registered across the country are equally ridiculous. Mehta referred to the absurd charge of sedition filed against the Rana couple in Mumbai, but in the past few years the winds of such ridiculousness have been seen from Maharashtra to Manipur, mostly at the behest of the party whose government served as Mehta’s. Huh.

It is clear that police everywhere have blatantly violated the law—as decided by the Supreme Court in the Kedarnath Singh case in 1962—that mere words with no direct association with violence cannot constitute sedition. This is the reason why the constitutionality of Section 124A was challenged in the Supreme Court.

The Delhi case is important—and the Solicitor General chose to easily forget it—as he clearly states that the Modi government completely agrees with the mindset behind the indiscriminate use of sedition against critical and uncomfortable voices. This is not a problem of the vindictive, insecure leaders of India or the states, but it also involves the prime minister and the home minister’s willingness to misuse the law to silence inconvenient voices.

Finding itself in a difficult position, the government has cleverly proposed a review of the sedition law in an attempt to avoid a decision that has come to its head. In its typical style, it was presented in an official affidavit as part of the ‘Honourable’ Prime Minister’s campaign to free India from colonial burdens.

The Supreme Court understood the game and accepted the proposal for a government review, with an important caveat: it said that all ongoing sedition cases should be put on hold until that process is completed.

It is true that those already in custody have not been assured immediate bail, and the court order uses evasive language to file fresh cases – it is ‘hopefully’ That the central and state governments will refrain from implementing 124A for the time being – but the bench has made it clear that it will not give any concession on disregarding this suggestion.

Assuming that our governments are not wholly shameless—despite Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s warning of a ‘lakshman rekha’ to the court—the court’s interim order should effectively mean that the 150-year-old sedition law is finally over. Happening.

Even if it is implemented successfully, the review promised by the Modi government is not likely to be very serious. The modus operandi it is proposing—that a sedition FIR must be signed by a Superintendent of Police (SP) level officer—has not impressed the petitioners much. So unless the Supreme Court’s view is changed, this colonial-era relic will not be used to harass critics of the government.

Although it is believed that the Supreme Court should have been more outspoken about the dubious intentions of the government in this matter, but still it is a good thing. Of course, those in power, who have used sedition to criminalize free speech, still have a lot of legal arrows left in their quiver.

In recent years, we have enacted the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the National Security Act (NSA), the Public Safety Act against people who dislike power to speak or write. [पीएसए] (in Jammu and Kashmir) as well as several sections of the IPC – 153, 295, 504, 505. Lawyer Prateek Chadha has some of these provisions. List has created. In 2020, the Disaster Management Act and even the Epidemic Act were invoked against the media.

It is quite likely that the imminent end of sedition will see police (and their masters) across the country doubling down on the use of these other laws as a way to intimidate critics and silence journalists, human rights activists and opposition leaders.

To put it in the words of the court, “we hope” that Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and his colleagues will remain vigilant on this issue and also find ways to prevent misuse of these other laws.

(Click here to read this article in English.)

Categories: media, politics, special

Tagged as: 1962 Verdict Sedition, Central Govt, Centre, Indian Penal Code, IPC, IPC Section 124A, Kedar Nath Singh Case, Modi Govt, News, Section 124A, sedition, Sedition law, Supreme Court, The Wire Hindi, UAPA

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