Nagpur: Recently, a comment made by a young, educated and well placed woman working in Mumbai has stayed in my mind.
An innocuous Facebook post she had put up about a harmless subject very harmless subject , was lampooned , ridiculed and criticized beyond reason by other members of the group.
“When you are female and Muslim this is what you should expect” she said to me philosophically. (Yes, she is Muslim).
After further chat, she asked me ” why can’t people differentiate? If you are anti P.M. or anti C.M. does that make you an anti national?”
Obviously, now it does…
A clarification has been issued by the Maharashtra Govt. in the Bombay High Court by way of a circular.
The circular asks police to bear in mind that the sedition clause of IPC can be invoked against whoever, by “words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, dissatisfaction and provoking violence” against the central or state government.
However, the section 124-A will not be invoked against those trying to bring change in government through legal means without hatred and contempt, it said.
“Powers to invoke different Sections of IPC are with the station officer. Government can issue guidelines, hence, we have done so to avoid confusion among different police stations,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) KP Bakshi told the media.
Pray, will someone clarify here what will constitute hatred and contempt? If I, as a discerning citizen or further, as member of the press, point out lacunae between promises made and actions taken, and my writing leads to unrest, dissatisfaction and emotions which are opposite of love among readers, am I guilty of sedition?
For instance, if I point out that the present CM and a senior Minister of the Central Govt. had vowed to the people of Vidarbha that they were committed to getting them a separate state but are now enjoying fruits of power completely going back on their promise, will I be guilty of sedition?
Then, how do I remain the fourth pillar of Democracy with my voice silenced?
The most interesting aspect of this whole exercise is that the very concept of ‘Sedition’ has been dug out from old British law archives when Monarchy existed in Europe. The reigning King or Queen had to be protected by any means, specially since the British Empire stretched to so many ‘colonies’ around the world ( conquered nations like India for instance). Any attempts at gaining freedom would mean over throwing Monarchy and that would be treated as crime of sedition.
Does an independent democratic nation have any place for a so-called crime like ‘sedition?’
Wouldn’t it be so very ironic if our own governments now start creating provisions in law where free citizens can be treated like freedom fighters were by the British?
Let me point out, Sedition is NOT the same as Treason.
As per the legal definition The distinction between “sedition” and “treason” consists in this: that though the ultimate object of sedition is a violation of the public peace, or at least such a course of measures as evidently engenders it. yet it does not aim at direct and open violence against the laws or the subversion of the constitution.
As Senior Advocate Shreehari Aney points out in his blog “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 Mody, or Devendra Fadnavis, for example. But you are welcome to criticise Rahul Gandhi or Sharad Pawar, for instance, since they are not in power. Its a Win-Win situation for the government.”
Just a few months into power, and over four years yet to go, why has our state government become so hypersensitive to Criticism?
After being elected to power by an ( almost) absolute majority, why the insecurity Mr. C.M.? Are you feeling vulnerable because –
a) You perceive we do not love you any more? Or –
b) You feel, after some of your actions or non-actions, you do not deserve to be loved ?
…. Sunita Mudliyar