Nagpur: The political atmosphere in Maharashtra has turned red hot over the recent Circular issued by BJP-led State Government. The circular says that if a person insults the Government or People’s Representatives through speech, writing and photos then the person would attract penal action under Section 124(A) of Indian Penal Code.
It may be mentioned that an unending debate has already been held over the earlier actions under this provision. The previous government in the state had taken action against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for hurting the sentiments of many. During hearing in the case, the High Court had directed the State Government to draw a guideline.
When the issue snowballed the Government turned the court directive into a potent weapon. However, the Government has clarified that it has not issued any order but only a guideline circular.
At present the Home Ministry is with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Therefore, he is being targeted by Opposition. In Nagpur the NCP workers held demonstrations at Samvidhan Square (RBI Square).
This is not the first BJP Government providing protection to the People’s Representatives. Recently, the Madhya Pradesh Government has passed a law in the Assembly by which filing of a case against ruling party members and officials will be impossible.
Nagpur Today talked to some prominent personalities for their reactions on the issue.
Atul Londe, NCP Spokesman said the decision is anti-democracy and gagging the freedom of speech and expression. People have the basic right to criticize the rulers.
By snatching that right the BJP is displaying how it is intoxicated by power. This decision is dictatorial. The Constitution is already protecting those holding Constitutional posts and the BJP Government is now protecting the rulers, too.
The great Lokmanya Tilak had fought with British on the very issue. Will the people have to fight their own Government in BJP rule?
Shripad Bhalchandra Joshi, Literatteur said that freedom of speech and expression is the constitutional right. If the circular affects this freedom then it is absolutely wrong.
Sanjay Dubey, Congress Spokesman said the State Government issued the circular and has clarified that only a guideline notification has been issued.
It means something fishy is being cooked. Effects of this cooking will be known later. If adverse remark against politicians is an offence then will the government file case against Pravin Togadia?
Will the Government take action against BJP leaders for their shady remarks against Congress leaders during Lok Sabha election campaign? This is outright violation of rights. It seems the BJP Government inching towards Hitlerism.
Chandan Goswami, BJP Spokesman said, the Opposition is unnecessarily blowing the matter out of proportions. The Government has only issued a circular.
The motive is very clear. The way shabby campaigns are run against politicians the circular aims to curb the practice. The circular is no way violation of citizens’ rights. Congress-NCP leaders are deliberately targeting the Chief Minister.
People are clever. Anyway, the Government has issued the circular only after court directives.
Prominent lawyer Sheehari Aney said that Maharashtra Government in its infinite stupidity has decided that speaking against the Government, or against political leaders who sit in government, will amount to Sedition if it brings the government in disrepute or disgrace or is intended to dislodge the government or incites people to unlawful agitation against government.
It all began in Januaer 2012, when cartoonist Aseem Trivedi drew cartoons against governmental corruption & posted them on India Against Corruption website. The Police promptly arrested him and charged him with Sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. A PIL was filed demanding his release, and the Bombay High Court gave a judgment directing his release. In the course of the arguments, the then Advocate General Daraius Khambata told the Court that Government will issue guidelines so that the police know the difference between freedom of speech, and sedition.
The guidelines are now out. In the new circular dated September 4, 2015 saying, in a nutshell, that if you spoke against the Government, or criticized political leaders, and if this resulted in bring the Government into disrepute, or caused the people to illegally agitate against the Government, then you were a “desh-drohi” who should be tried for Sedition.
The offence of Sedition is an offence against the State, & never against the government. The intention of every seditionist is to overthrow the State. We all want to overthrow a bad government, but that is not sedition. That is democracy. In fact all political parties in opposition try to overthrow the government every 5 years when elections happen. But that is not sedition. Only acts intended to overthrow the State by unlawful means is Sedition.
But the Government thinks it has found a good way to make people shut up. If anyone speaks against the Government or political leaders, arrest them for sedition. Stop them from expressing their views. And never mind their fundamental right to speech.
And the beauty of it is since govetnment means ruling party, you cant criticise Mr.Narendra Modi, or Devendra Fadnavis, for example. But you are welcome to criticise Rahul Gandhi or Sharad Pawar, for instance, since they are not in power. It’s a Win-Win situation for the government.
Maharashtra Government has found a great way to make people shut up. They don’t even have to kill you to shut you up, like it happened with Dabholkar or Pansare or Kalburgi. They can just shut you up in jail.
And since I’ve just finished writing against Government of Maharashtra, I’m sure to be arrested for sedition, & you are free to visit me in jail.