TODAY -

Stay on sedition cases smack on political elites
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: May 13, 2022 -



BY ordering stay on all proceedings in sedition cases and directing the Centre and states to not register any fresh FIR invoking sedition charges until the government re-examines the colonial-era penal law, the Supreme Court has driven home the message that no one can misinterpret laws of the land framed to safeguard the citizens and neutralise genuine threat faced by the nation.

On Wednesday, a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana ordered that all pending cases, appeals and proceedings with respect to charges framed for sedition be kept in abeyance, which means that no heads of state should take undue advantage of securing the top jobs by virtue of receiving public mandate to settling personal score as the cases seem to be vis-a-vis application of sedition law.

Sedition, for a reminder, is an illegal action of inciting resistance to lawful authority and tending to cause disruption or overthrow of the government.

Contrary to such a clear cut definition, there has been a tendency of the establishment to slap sedition cases as and when some aggrieved citizens question policy matters and decisions of the government on certain issues.

Though almost all these voices of dissent posed no real threat to the government the latter made it a point to pull up and put any detractors behind the bars.

Manipur, too, has had a handful of cases of individuals sent to jail under NSA for criticising the government policies and expressing low opinion of government leaders only to be released as the charges were either found to be flimsy or could not be corroborated.

While Manipur's few cases seem unrelated with the Supreme Court's decree, the suspicion over random abuse of sedition laws across the country could be the reason for the apex court giving its opinion that sedition cases need re-examination.

In case sedition laws are invoked against individuals confirmed to have committed acts of terrorism or linked with terror outfits then it's obvious that no one would question wisdom of framers of the Indian Constitution.

However, petitioners against the colonial-era penal law, as had been dubbed by the Supreme Court, consisting of the Indian journalist fraternity, a retired army officer of major general rank, a former union minister and People's Union for Civil Liberties underscore disenchantment of various sections of the society against the detrimental and prejudicial effects of the law.

Among a few incidents of sedition cases filed against individuals who posed no threat to national security, one Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist, got arrested in 2012 for his drawings satirising widespread corruption among India's political elite and was jailed for two weeks after he refused bail in protest of the sedition charges slapped on him.

The Mumbai-based Aseem's cartoons included one depicting the parliament building as a lavatory buzzing with flies. Nearer home, sedition charges were filed against Assamese scholar Hiren Gohain, peasant rights activist Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta for remarks made against the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which alluded to the possibility of a demand for independence and sovereignty if the much-protested Bill was pushed through the Parliament.

As such, arrests of these government detractors, to name a few, testify that the government will not tolerate expression of low opinion or criticism against the establishment or its leaders, which, of course, cannot be considered as a sign of healthy democracy.



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