Regressive sedition case

Kashmir Times. Dated: 2/10/2020 4:32:54 PM

Police have driven the regressive sedition law to ridiculous lengths and needs to be repealed to do away with colonial era legacy

A Mumbai court denying anticipatory bail to a 22-year old student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) charged with sedition amounts to buckling under the pressure of the market, where a narrative has been created by the ruling elite to dub everything that is opposed to its politics is anti-national. It is unfortunate that the judicial system has ventured into the derivatives market for sedition and to take a dramatic step in the context of LGBTQ rally a few days ago. The court also appears to have succumbed under pressure from the ruling party at the centre to deny bail in all such cases even if the slogan that was purported to have been raised only once in support of another student activist, who has similarly been charged with sedition case for speaking against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Registers for Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) in the recent past. The student leader in question is Sharjeel Imam, a former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, against whom several states have filed sedition cases for participating in protests against CAA and other issues. The TISS student had only once raised a slogan in his support at the rally organized by LGBTQ members of the society and had nothing to do with anti-CAA protests. Her counsel stated that she raised the slogan in Sharjeel Imam's support only once but the court refuses to believe and rejected her anticipatory bail. This is perhaps the first known derivative of sedition, surpassing the charge of sedition by association that people like Binayak Sen or others have been accused of. If this is the situation in one case, there can be hundreds or thousands of such cases, wherein police can charge protestors across the country with sedition for participation in anti-CAA rallies, demonstrations and more so campaigns against such unjust laws. At least hundreds of places across the major cities in India have witnessed protests against CAA, NRC and other laws, where thousands of people are staging sit-ins or holding peaceful protests like the one witnessed in Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi. Taking a cue from such sedition charges, thousands of Indian citizens can be held in detention by police.
It is acceptable that the police officials, who filed the FIR were not cognisant of developments in sedition law, but lower judiciary cannot be ignorant of the substantial case law which has developed thanks to the government's propensity for using sedition as a handy solution for containing people who disagree with it not only on laws but also politically. Most recently, in 2016, a Supreme Court bench had recalled a judgment from 1962 dismissing a sedition matter, to observe that only action taken towards a 'violent revolution' could attract such a charge. A slogan raised only once about a person accused of sedition fails to tick the requisite box. Sloganeering is an organic activity, widening the ambit of the central message by absorbing current political references, and the student's counsel had argued that Imam's name had been voiced in the heat of the moment, along with routine points of reference like the main framer of the Indian Constitution B R Ambedkar and a student activist Rohith Vemula. It is unfortunate that the sessions court in Mumbai held that the charges were serious enough to merit custodial interrogation, and has denied anticipatory bail to her. The court has paid scant regard to the case law which has developed on sedition and effectively, the lower court is committing contempt of the Supreme Court. The law of sedition is deeply problematic anyway, since it is a device introduced by a colonial power to keep a subject population in check, and does not belong in a democratic country which is governed by the people. In cases like this one, where the law is applied completely arbitrarily on the whims and fancies of the rulers, reaffirms the general conviction that the law should be repealed at the earliest.



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