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Editor: NAGARAJA.M.R… VOL.10 issue.36…… .14 / 09 / 2016
Sedition or defamation case can't be slapped for criticising govt, says Supreme Court
The court's observation came on Bhushan's plea that sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.
The Supreme Court today said sedition or defamation cases cannot be slapped on anyone criticising the government.
"Someone making a statement to criticise the government does not invoke an offence under sedition or defamation law. We have made it clear that invoking of section 124(A) of IPC (sedition) requires certain guidelines to be followed as per the earlier judgment of the apex court," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and UU Lalit said while disposing of a petition filed by NGO Common Cause of senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
The court's observation came on Bhushan's plea that sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.
He cited the examples of sedition charges being slapped on agitators protesting against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, among others.
To this, the bench said, "We don't have to explain the sedition law. It's already there in the five-judges' Constitution bench's judgment in Kedar Nath Singh vs state of Bihar of 1962."
Court refuses to pass direction
The court, while alleging misuse of the sedition law, refused to pass a direction on the plea that a copy of this order be sent to all chief secretaries of states and the Directors General of Police.
"You have to file separate plea highlighting if any misuse of sedition law is there. In criminal jurisprudence, allegations and cognisance have to be case specific, otherwise it will go haywire. There can't be any generalisation," the bench said.
Bhushan said law has not been amended after the Kedar Nath Singh judgment by the apex court and a constable does not understand the judgment but what he understands is the section in the IPC.
"Constables don't need to understand. It is the magistrate who needs to understand and follow the guidelines as laid down by the apex court while invoking sedition charges," the apex court said.
NGO's plea on misuse of section 124A IPC
The court was hearing a plea seeking the apex court's intervention to address the "misuse" of section 124 A of the IPC contending that such a charge was being framed with a view to "instill fear and scuttle dissent".
The NGO's plea said "there has been an increase in the number of cases of sedition against intellectuals, activists, students, with the latest being the sedition charge on Amnesty India for organising a debate on Kashmir".
"In this regard, a petition has been filed to address the misuse and misapplication of Section 124A (sedition law) by the Centre and various state governments leading to routine persecution of students, journalists and intellectuals engaged in social activism. It is submitted that these charges are framed with a view to instill fear and to scuttle dissent".
Sedition case slapped on Amnesty International, Arundhati Roy, Kanhaiya Kumar among others
Acting on a complaint by the ABVP on Saturday, Bengaluru police had slapped sedition charges against Amnesty International India after an event it had organised on allegations of human rights violations and denial of justice in Jammu and Kashmir.
Referring to a National Crime Records Bureau report, the plea said that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone and 58 persons arrested in connection with these cases, but the government has managed only one conviction so far.
It cited a series of recent examples of activists being slapped with sedition charges, including Arundhati Roy in 2010 for alleged anti-India remarks at an event in Kashmir, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in 2012 for allegedly insulting the country through his cartoons, doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen, JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and DU professor SAR Geelani.
The plea sought a direction that either Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police be asked to give a report before registration of an FIR for the offence of sedition that the act has led to violence or there was an intent on the part of the accused to create public disorder.
It also sought a direction that the investigations and prosecutions be dropped in cases where such a reasoned order was not provided and the act in question involved peaceful expression or assembly.
The constitutional validity of section 124 A rests upon either an intention to create public disorder or incitement of violence, it had said.
Last month, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan's NGO Common Cause had moved the Supreme Court on the alleged misuse of sedition laws. "With rampant misuse of Sedition law, we have filed PIL to ensure there's incitement to violence for charging sedition," he had alleged and added that the sedition law is causing persecution of students.
"Sedition laws are being misused," the NGO had alleged and demanded that the approval of concerned DGP or Commissioner should be sought before booking someone on charges of sedition.
The PIL was filed even as Amnesty International India was booked on the charge of sedition on August 16. Amnesty International had organised the event in Bengaluru as part of a campaign to seek justice for "victims of human rights violations" in Jammu and Kashmir. The event took a turn for the ugly and heated exchanges were witnessed and allegedly anti-India and anti-Army slogans were raised.
Sedition: SC directs authorities to follow Kedar Nath Judgment
September 5, 2016
Supreme Court of India has today issued a direction to all the concerned authorities to follow the Constitutional bench judgment in Kedar Nath v State of Bihar (1962) which limited the scope of Sedition Law (Section 124A) in India. The Supreme Court has said that all authorities would be bound by the Kedar Nath judgment when dealing with cases of sedition. With the above observation the Supreme Court has dismissed the Petition filed by NGO ‘Common Cause’ and Dr. S.P. Udayakumar.
Appearing for the Petitioners, Advocate Prashant Bhushan has argued before the bench that the law of sedition is being grossly misused, misapplied and abused by the authorities and that the authorities are not following the judgment in Kedar Nath which states that Section 124A (sedition) is only applicable where there is violence or incitement to violence in the alleged act of sedition. The Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Supreme Court by NGO ‘Common Cause’ and Dr. S.P. Udayakumar (anti-nuclear activist against whom sedition charges have been made) seeking urgent intervention of the Supreme Court to address the misuse and misapplication of Section 124A (sedition) by successive governments leading to routine persecution of students, journalists and intellectuals engaged in social activism.
The Petitioners alleged that the Sedition charges are framed against Citizens with a view to instil fear and to scuttle dissent and are in complete violation of the scope of sedition as laid down by a constitution bench of Supreme Court in Kedar nath v State of Bihar [1962 Supp. (2) S.C.R. 769], which is the locus classicus on the interpretation of sedition.
As per the Constitution bench judgment in Kedarnath vs State of Bihar only those acts, which involve incitement to violence or violence constitute a seditious act. In the various cases that have been filed in the recent years, the charges of sedition against the accused have failed to stand up to judicial scrutiny. The petitioners have sought a strict compliance of the Constitutional Bench judgment in Kedar Nath in which for the very first time scope of sedition as a penal offence was laid down and it was held that the gist of the offence of sedition is “incitement to violence” or the “tendency or the intention to create public disorder”.
Read more at: http://www.livelaw.in/sedition-sc-directs-authorities-follow-kedar-nath-judgment ,
Misuse of sedition Law in India
Once again the law of sedition has been misused, this time in Tamil Nadu. A folk singer associated with a radical leftist group has been charged with sedition and committing an act with an intent to cause a riot. His offence: disseminating two songs pillorying Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her government for its policy of retailing liquor. There is nothing in the compositions that even remotely threatens the state or established government; neither is there anything that encourages violence, beyond calling for the closure of state-run liquor outlets as part of a campaign against government policy. The song has gone viral on social media, and many relate to its central theme. The song delineates with a great sense of irony, in tunes that are catchy, the idea of the state selling liquor while at the same time showering the people with freebies. In a sense, it has captured the present patronage paradigm in the political economy wherein the ruling party poses as the provenance of all welfare, but keeps the people disempowered through alcohol addiction and dependent on state doles. The artist, Kovan, whose real name is Sivadas, has managed to capture this reality in his songs. While the tenor of one of the songs, as well as caricatures in its video portraying Ms. Jayalalithaa in poor light, may appear defamatory of an individual, it should be remembered that small radical groups using folk forms for political propaganda communicate in strong, yet easily understandable language.
Powerful political figures ought to have it in them to take such criticism in their stride. They must act to address the underlying grievances rather than use repressive measures. The state’s response has been needlessly angry. Kovan’s arrest marks yet another instance of a pliant police force invoking Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with sedition, with utter disregard for several judicial pronouncements limiting its scope. Courts have deprecated the tendency to invoke this grave charge for mere expressions of critical views. The Supreme Court has said that even words that indicate disaffection towards the government cannot be termed seditious, unless there is actual incitement to violence and intention to cause disorder. In this case, it is particularly disgraceful that the Chennai police have equated strident criticism of the Chief Minister with an alleged threat to the government established by law. It was only recently that the Maharashtra government withdrew a controversial circular to the effect that strong criticism of public servants could attract the charge of sedition. In 2012, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was booked for sedition for a cartoon that highlighted corruption. In Meerut last year, the police initially invoked Section 124A, but later dropped it, against a group of Kashmiri students for, of all things, cheering the Pakistan team during a cricket telecast. Given its repeated misuse, it is time this unwanted, outdated, pre-colonial provision was jettisoned altogether.
‘Sedition law is political; it is misused in India’
The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy organised a panel discussion on ‘Free Speech and Sedition in a Democracy.
Focussing on the recent events that unfolded at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy organised a panel discussion on ‘Free Speech and Sedition in a Democracy,’ touching upon the impact of sedition law on freedom of speech, in Chennai on Thursday.
Former Madras High Court judge K. Chandru, former Director-General of Police A.X. Alexander and senior advocate Sriram Panchu participated in the panel discussion, which was moderated by N. Ravi, former Editor-In-Chief, The Hindu, and Director, Kasturi and Sons Ltd.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Ravi pointed out that there were three dimensions — political, legal and public discourse — to sedition and free speech.
“In a constitutional democracy and republic, do the interests of the state need such a law? Second is the legal dimension: whether the restrictive legal judicial interpretation is enough of a safeguard and whether allowing the section to remain on the statute book in itself poses the danger of misuse. And the third dimension related to public discourse on sedition and free speech where very often the wrong question is posed: Is free speech of a few more important than the security of the state? The right question should be whether a particular speech of a person poses a real threat to the security,” he said.
Justice Chandru said that sedition law was a ‘political law.’ It was always misused by the political class. “The Supreme Court has clearly said that mere speech doesn’t qualify as sedition. Sedition law is always misused in India. In Tamil Nadu, singer Kovan was booked under sedition for singing against TASMAC shops and the government,” he said, adding, “If a law is likely to be misused, then it is an arbitrary law.”
While arguing that the policemen often ‘go by the book’ because there are adequate legal checks, Mr. Alexander said that the sedition law must remain in the penal code, but the ‘vagueness’ in the law must be avoided.
“There is a clamour to remove not just the sedition law, but many other laws, including the blasphemy law, which will open up a Pandora’s box,” he said.
Mr. Panchu said only when words incite violence and disturb public order, do they amount to sedition.
“We should see if the speech produces a spark to the powder keg. If it doesn’t, a speech cannot be deemed sedition. So long as one doesn’t contemplate, promote or incite violence, it cannot be deemed seditious,” he said.
Editorial : Who is Anti-National ? Amensty International ?
First of all my whole hearted respects to my motherland Bharath maata - India , for giving birth , shelter , food , water to millions of Indians like me on her sacred soil. My whole hearted respects salutes to our soldiers , police and security personnel who are guarding millions of Indians day in & day out , whether rain or sun shine 24 * 7 * 365 . without their sacrifices it would not have been possible for millions of us to safely enjoy our freedom , our lives.
What is Anti-Nationalism ? The act which intends to destroy the unity , integrity of a country by it’s own people , an internal sabotage. The person who performs such act is an Anti-National.
What is Human Rights & Duties ? Human Rights are the rights enjoyed by each human being by virtue of his birth , not sanctioned by any political party nor by any governments nor by any courts of law. Human Duties are to respect the Human Rights of his fellow country men. Government of India has reaffirmed , upheld human rights of all Indians , ratified Universal declaration of human rights and has set up National Human Rights Commission. Supreme Court of India has upheld the supremacy of Human Rights in various cases before it. Therefore working for protection of HUMAN RIGHTS in India is strictly legal , within legal boundary.
The fairness , transparency of democracy in India is that it gives a chance even to an alleged criminal , terrorist to make his point in court of law through his legal counsel. When ever the alleged criminal , terrorist fails to engage a lawyer for himself , the court appoints one from it’s panel of lawyers. Example pak terrorist kasab. Ultimately , Our democracy , our judiciary ensures a fair trial for all. Hats off to my motherland.
In india , some NGOs are impartially , sincerely doing their duty of working for protection of human rights in a balanced way. However some NGOs only cry foul when certain people are affected but remains mum other way round. It is not fair , not right. Terrorists want their human rights protected but they don’t respect the human rights of their fellow human beings , it is not just.
Yes , there are few corrupt police , security personnel , soldiers who commit excesses like fake encounters , lock up deaths , third degree torture, etc. those few corrupt are nothing but terrorists in government uniform. In the same breath there are many honest , professional police , security personnel , soldiers. Nobody should generalize and make adverse remarks against the whole forces. We must respect the honest persons within our forces , boost their morale. Please remember they too are human beings , have families to look after but sacrificing themselves for the safety their fellow countrymen.
In the same way in all communities , religions , there are good people as well as bad. People from all communities have & are contributing towards india in their own spheres of life.
The struggle of NGOs must not be against any government or any system in general rather it must be only against specific case of crime. NGOs must not take sides with any community or religion , it must represent the specific case of the victim whichever community , religion he belongs to. NGOs must seek justice for victims of excesses committed by security forces , police fine in the same way it must seek justice to the families of security personnel , police who are martyred. In some cases martyr’s family members run from pillar to post for years to get pension , denied appointment in government service on compassionate grounds , etc. Nobody cares about them inspite of their huge sacrifices.
Pakistan is a terror state , it doesn’t have any positive human development agenda. It has only destructive agenda with regards to it’s neighbours whether india or Afghanistan and it is fanatic to the extent of fighting amongst themselves within their own country. It doesn’t mean all ordinary Pakistani citizens are terrorists. They too are human beings like us , want to work , earn in a honourable way and to maintain their families. TERRORISM is the state dictated policy in Pakistan , by few fanatics & power mongers in the government of pakistan.
Can public of Srilanka brand all Indians as Terrorists , because government of india supported tamil separatists in srilanka. It is untrue , wrong. The decision to support tamil terrorists in srilanka was secretly taken by few power mongers in government of india at that time but never supported by commoners. We the Indians , commoners wish the government to rightly use precious tax payer’s money for betterment of our social security needs rather than misusing it for illegal purposes.
When a person or NGO raises voice for seeking justice within democratic frame work, he should not be branded as anti-national. Thereby , the person who brandishes the other himself will be acting against law & an anti-national himself. Nobody should take law into his own hands , our legal system is capable.
The real Anti-Nationals who are roaming free are :
1. Police personnel who are on the pay rolls of under world dons and alerts them against strategic strikes.
2. Hi fi people who shame lessly attend parties hosted by dons.
3. Hi fi people who help dons but still go with minor punishment.
4. Alleged Public servants who makes favors in defence purchases , contracts risking the security of the nation.
5. Public servants who themselves got flats allotted in Adarsh Housing Society which was actually meant for families of martyrs , war widows.
The list goes on.
Hereby , we urge Government of Karnataka to conduct an impartial enquiry into Anti National charges against Amnesty International at the earliest and to provide a fair chance for them to legally put forth their case.
Hereby , we also urge government of india :
1. To abolish Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
2. To legally punish few errant police , security personnel for their excesses , illegal acts.
3. To abolish colonial era sedition laws. To legally prosecute the real anti nationals , corrupt few within the government.
4. To protect , respect human rights of one and all – pundits , muslims , etc.
5. To pay compensation , pension amounts to families of martyred security personnel , police on fast track basis. To provide appointment in government service to one of the dependants on compassionate grounds on fast track basis.
Hereby we also , urge Honourable Supreme Court of India to immediately admit PILs mentioned at following web site in the interest of national security and human rights of public at large.
Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.
Your’s sincerely ,
PUCL (People’s Union For Civil Liberties) condemns the actions of the Bengaluru Police in foisting a case of sedition, creating enmity and other charges against Amnesty International India and unnamed staff for holding a meeting on 13th August, 2016 in Bengaluru on human rights abuses in Kashmir in which families of victims participated. From the statement of Amnesty it is evident that the police had been informed about the meeting, were present at the venue and had observed firsthand the event and therefore had knowledge that the allegations of the VHP about the meeting were politically motivated and false. That the Karnataka police chose to register a FIR despite all this only highlights the dangers of arming the state with such draconian laws like the anti-sedition laws.
The 13th August, 2016 event itself was in the backdrop of the 2015 Amnesty International report “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”. The Report focused on the travails of families of persons who lost their loved ones due to excesses by security forces. This report is in the public domain. Families of victims of State violence were present to narrate in first person, the situation in Kashmir and the difficulties in claiming justice and accountability in cases where innocent people are killed in encounters or enforced disappearances. The meeting itself included showing video films of testimonies of other victim families, a panel discussion, musical performance and skit.
PUCL sees the recent registration of an FIR for sedition against Amnesty International, India and the witch hunt into the finances / funding of the organisation as yet another instance in the long string of events where the State has used right wing, majoritarian groups to stifle dissent, prevent discussion and control debate. There is a visible pattern across the country – from the incidents in JNU, Hyderabad Central University, Allahabad University, or the witch hunt against Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand and their organisation CJP, Indira Jaisingh and Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective, Green Peace and now Amnesty International – where, in every meeting discussing human rights violations suffered by minorities and dalits, or excesses of security forces whether in Kashmir, North East or in Maoist regions, a small fringe group creates a commotion, which is used to first disrupt the meeting and thereafter to harass the organisers by slamming cases against them. Seldom is any action initiated against the individuals who disrupt meetings in the first place.
For instance, in the present incident, the local police were informed and were present at the meeting. Why were the disruptors not removed by the police present in the venue or why was no FIR registered against the persons who appeared to have come prepared to disrupt and actually disrupted the meeting?
It also needs to be highlighted that the repeated invocation of the anti-sedition offence (sec. 124 A IPC) over any other section of IPC is mainly to create a public opinion that those who demand accountability of the state and its agencies, including the police, para military and security forces, are essentially “anti-national”. This creates a negative image about them amongst common people; the `anti-national’ tag, in turn, ensures that the state can further persecute them without much adverse public opinion.
It is in this context that we need to also notice that irrespective of political party in power, most governments tend to abuse the extremely coercive, anti-democratic, anti-sedition provision, sec. 124A IPC to silence dissent and crush criticism. There is little difference between a BJP government invoking sedition provisions against Dr. Binayak Sen in Chhattisgarh or the AIADMK government invoking sedition laws against peaceful, anti-nuclear protestors in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu or cartoonist Aseem Trivedi being arrested in Maharashtra or the case launched by the TMC government in West Bengal against academics; more recently in the last one year itself, is the sedition case against JNU Students Union leader, Kanhaiya Kumar in Delhi, the Tamil folk singer Kovan in TN for criticising the government’s liquor policy and against Hardik Patel for rallying the anti-reservation struggle involving Patels or Patidars in Gujarat; the latest to join this long list of infamous sedition cases is the present case against Amnesty International India launched by the Congress government in Karnataka. In all these cases, what weighed were political considerations of the ruling parties and governments dealing a death blow to the rule of law and functioning of the criminal justice system.
It has been a long held position of PUCL that the anti-sedition law (sec. 124A IPC) should be repealed immediately. It is ironical that in Britain itself the sedition clause has been repealed while India continues to retain it.
PUCL appeals to all concerned citizens, democratically minded groups and human rights movement to once again give a call for repealing sec. 124 A IPC and to launch a mass citizen’s campaign to make ordinary citizens aware of the dangerous, anti-democratic nature of this archaic, colonial era provision of law.
PUCL also demands that the Government of Karnataka and the Karnataka Police immediately withdraw the FIR lodged against Amnesty International, India for the meeting organised by it on 13thAugust, 2016 in the United Theological College in Bengaluru.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA PRESS RELEASE
On 15 August, a First Information Report was reportedly registered against Amnesty International India with regard to an event held on 13 August, based on a complaint filed by an ABVP representative.
The allegations mentioned in the complaint are without substance. They are preventing the families of victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir from having their stories heard. And preventing civil society organisations from enabling these families to exercise their constitutional right to justice.
Amnesty International India’s vision is for every person in India to enjoy the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international human rights standards, and the Constitution of India. We are independent of any political, economic or ideological interests.
The event was held as part of a campaign based on the report “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”, published in July 2015, and publicly available. The report documents the obstacles to justice faced in several cases of human rights violations believed to have been committed by Indian security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. It focuses particularly on Section 7 of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA), which grants virtual immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution in civilian courts for alleged human rights violations.
The report was based on in-depth research in Jammu and Kashmir, including interviews with family members of victims, Right to Information applications, examination of police and court records, and interviews with civil society groups, lawyers, and government officials.
The families of three Kashmiri victims that were interviewed for the report were invited to share their stories at the event.
Below is a point-by-point rebuttal to the allegations raised in the complaint.
1) “Sindhujaa Iyengar, a political science lecturer at a private university in Bengaluru, Seema Mustafa and Roushan Illahi sang anti-national songs and raised anti-national slogans.”
Sindhujaa Iyengar is an employee of Amnesty International India. She was not present on stage at any point during the event. Seema Mustafa is a senior journalist. She moderated a discussion with affected families at the event. Neither of them sang any songs or raised any slogans at any point.
The only musical performance was a song by Roushan Illahi (also known as MC Kash) at the end of the event, about growing up amid violence in Kashmir.
Video footage of the event which was recorded by Amnesty International India has been shared with the police.
2) “Sindhujaa Iyengar, Seema Mustafa and Roushan Illahi…delivered anti-national speeches against soldiers.”
The only speech delivered at the event was by Amnesty International India’s Programmes Director, Tara Rao, which referred to allegations of human rights violations by security force personnel. These allegations are laid out in detail in Amnesty International India’s 2015 report, and have been widely reported and discussed. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is part of the current ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, had welcomed the recommendations of the report when it was published.
The families who attended the event spoke of their own personal stories of loss, as per the programme of the event. One of the families who attended the event was that of Shahzad Ahmad Khan, one of the men killed in the Machil extra-judicial execution, for which five security force personnel were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Amnesty International India also invited R.K. Mattoo, a representative of the Kashmiri Pandit community in Bengaluru to speak about the human rights violations faced by members of the community.
3) “Slogans were raised that Indian Kashmir should be part of Pakistan.”
No Amnesty International India employee shouted any slogans at any point.
4) “The event indirectly supported terrorists.”
The only discussion at the event was about allegations of human rights violations and the denial of justice to families in Kashmir. These are issues that have regularly been discussed in the media. They have been written about at length by members of Parliament, politicians, judges and civil society. In July 2016, the Supreme Court, in a ruling relevant to the issues discussed at the event, stated that the armed forces do not enjoy impunity for human rights violations.
5) “The event…indirectly supported Pakistan and the ISI.”
The focus of the event was squarely on allegations of human rights violations and the denial of justice in Jammu and Kashmir Amnesty International has worked extensively on human rights violations in Pakistan, including the enforced disappearances and unlawful killings of political activists in Balochistan, violations by security forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) , and violence against journalists by groups including the ISI.
6) “When ABVP activists tried stopping the attack, people tried to assault them.”
No Amnesty International India employee was involved in any form of assault against anyone.
Towards the end of the event, some of those who attended raised slogans, some of which referred to calls for ‘Azaadi’ (freedom). Amnesty International India as a matter of policy does not take any position in favour of or against demands for self-determination.
However, Amnesty International India considers that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to peacefully advocate political solutions.
Amnesty International India had invited the Bengaluru police to be present at the event, in the interest of the security of the invited families and other attendees. We have shared our footage of the event with the police.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled on multiple occasions, notably in the case of Kedar Nath Singh versus State of Bihar, that speech would amount to sedition only if it involved incitement to violence or public disorder. The court ruled: “[C]riticism of public measures or comment on Government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.”
In the case of Shreya Singhal versus Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled: “‘Mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of [the right to freedom of expression].” It stated that the right could be restricted “only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement”.
It was a matter of time – one by one, the most outspoken and critical voices in the media, in civil society and in standing up for human rights are being picked out and attempts being made to silence them.
Just confirming that Seema Mustafa – good friend, outstanding journalist and a fearless activist for the Idea of India as laid out in our Constitution has also been included in thelist of those targeted by the ABVP FIR against Amnesty International for their hearings on Kashmir.
Seema has clearly been in their sights for a while and this provided a perfect excuse. Seema was among the better known faces invited to moderate one of the conversations with Kashmiris at the day long event held at the United Theological Institute at Bangalore on Aug 14 .
Martin Niemoller’s prophetic words constantly come to mind …
First they came for the Communists, I did not speak out- because i was not a communist
Then they came for the socialists, the trade unionists, the Jews –
I did not speak out
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak up for me …….
And let us no longer blame only the present regime –
Uday Kumar and thousands in Tamil Nadu were charged with sedition in the period of Congress and UPA I with ample and ready support from the T Nadu administration. Their only crime – the longest, non violent , peaceful, Gandhian protest against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant .
The tendency to clamp down on dissent – and all those who differ with the policies of the state began many decades back. Let us not forget that draconian legislation like AFSPA was brought in 58 years ago by the Congress regime.
It has just become more blatant , the impunity is up in your face,and also now is immeasurably strengthened by the overt participation of the private sector and powerful interests whocollaborate to stifle dissent from all those affected by extractive industrial activity across the lands and forests of indigenous peoples.
The IB report naming many well known public figures associated with anti nuclear, anti mining, anti AFSPA campaigns, groups and issues, was also leaked in the dying days of UPA II. None of that has been retracted.
It is a time for unity of action, for solidarity and strategic thoughtful response. But is no longer a time for silence, or for sitting on the fence. Action like the PIL filed in the Supreme Court against the anti deluvian law of sedition by Prashant Bhushan and Uday Kumar – is a fine example of legal action.
In solidarity with Seema Mustafa, with Aakar Patel and Amnesty, and those many many others – unnamed yet targeted unfairly for sedition – when they were protesting – a right conferred on them by the Constitution of India.
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