Posts Tagged ‘sedition (India)’

Sedition law suspended by India’s Supreme Court

May 12, 2022

Having posted before about this nefarious law [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/06/16/delhi-high-court-re-establishes-that-criticism-is-not-sedition/], it is good news that on 11 May 2022 India’s Supreme Court suspended this law which activists say is often used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to target free speech and dissent.

Mr Modi’s critics say that the law, which was once used by Britain to target independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, has been abused by his government against many journalists, activists, and students. Section 124A of the Indian penal code gives wide-ranging powers to the police to arrest people, who can even face life imprisonment, for an act or speech that “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government”.

India’s official crime data says 236 people faced sedition charges between 2018 and 2020. India sparked global outrage last year after 22-year-old climate change activist Disha Ravi was arrested for sedition for allegedly creating a “toolkit” to aid anti-government farmer protests.

See also:

The rigours of Section 124A (are) not in tune with the current social milieu, and was intended for a time when this country was under the colonial regime,” India’s chief justice N V Ramana, part of a three-judge bench hearing a petition against the law, said. Mr Ramana asked the government not to file any new sedition cases and pause ongoing sedition investigations.

All pending trials, appeals and proceedings” under sedition, the court said, “be kept in abeyance” until the “re-examination of the provision is complete“.

The government had said Monday that it had decided to “re-examine and reconsider” the law but it remained in force. The top court also urged people jailed for sedition to approach local courts for bail.

Amnesty International welcomed the Supreme Court’s order “For far too long, authorities have misused the sedition law to harass, intimidate, and persecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists, students, filmmakers, singers, actors, and writers for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression,” Aakar Patel, Chair of Amnesty International India’s Board, said. “Sedition has been used as a tool of political repression by successive governmens”i

Nagpur-based lawyer Nihalsingh Rathod, who represents many accused in the Elgar Parishad case said the legislature should have re-examined the relevance of sedition a long time ago. The Supreme Court’s interim order was an important step in rights jurisprudence, he said.

“It won’t bring complete respite as no state invokes an isolated provision. In present cases too they invoke many provisions, including UAPA. But still, it brings hope that the process of looking at sedition and jurisprudence around it is being re-examined. It offers some hope that sedition law will undergo some churn that has never happened,” he said…

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/indias-top-court-suspends-use-of-controversial-sedition-law/wy0racqs4
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/sedition-law-lawyers-and-free-speech-activists-welcome-sc-order/articleshow/91500777.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Delhi High Court re-establishes that criticism is not sedition

June 16, 2021

Lawyers have welcomed the decision by Delhi High Court stating that protesters have the right to criticise the government. They also hailed the Court’s verdict defining the lines between criticism of the government and activities that destabilize the country.

Aneesha Mathur in India Today of 16 June 2021 reports that -with the Delhi High Court rapping the government and Delhi Police over imposing UAPA on activists in connection with the clashes, following the anti-CAA protest – lawyers and jurists have said the verdict was significant since it has tried to define the line between criticism of the government, which is a Constitutional right, and activities that destabilize the country.

Former Supreme court justice Madan B Lokur welcomed the High court verdict.: “The judgment is welcome. It’s about time the courts told the State that draconian laws like the UAPA, NSA, sedition and so on may be used, if at all, very rarely and only if there is clinching evidence. Draconian laws cannot and must not be abused otherwise our braveheart judges will strike down arbitrary actions. The Delhi High Court has opened the door for interference and other High Courts should follow quickly while recognising that human rights are for humans and not the faceless State,”.

See also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/07/india-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-abound-under-unlawful-activities-prevention-act/

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave told India Today TV that the court had “not said anything new but laid down the law on the facts of the case.” Dave also called for “proactive and expeditious” movement from the judiciary on similar cases, and said that the activists “had lost one year of their life,” for no reason.advertisement

We are the world’s largest democracy. We will not be able to call ourselves a democracy if such laws are used to suppress dissent.” Speaking to India Today TV, Dave said despite “rule of law”, India had “become a police state.”

“Not only is BJP government abusing UAPA, but the Congress government also abused POTA and thousands were put in jail,” said Dave.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover also said the HC verdict was “significant” since there has been indiscriminate use of the law in recent years.

“Over the last few years, we see the police frequently using UAPA and sedition to silence critical citizens’ voices by placing them behind bars under stringent anti-terror law. The High Court has pierced through the indiscriminate use of UAPA by the police and unwarranted labelling of activities as terrorism. The Court has reiterated that non-violent contestation of government policies and laws is a constitutionally protected right to protest. Finally, the court has also reminded that if the speedy trial is not possible they must be granted bail,” said Grover.

He added: “In this context, we must raise the issue of incarceration of 16 human rights defenders in the Bhima Koregaon case under UAPA for almost three years and the trial is yet to commence. The judiciary must intervene and not allow the criminal legal machinery to be used by the State to suppress fundamental freedoms of citizens, otherwise democracy is in peril.”

“Anti-terror laws are made very strict because they are meant to handle terrorism cases. The government must balance the right of the citizens to protest and criticise with the need of the state. But governments tend to treat criticism as sedition and anti-national, which is wrong. The two judges have shown courage in calling this out,” said Senior advocate Geeta Luthra.

Former Law Commission chairman, Justice BS Chauhan said that while the potential for misuse “cannot mean repeal of an act”, there is a “need to define the contours of the law, as the UAPA is a wide provision” as it was meant to combat serious threats.advertisement

“Courts need to define contours of sedition and UAPA otherwise they can cover freedom of speech and expression,” said Chauhan.

https://www.indiatoday.in/law/story/wrong-to-treat-criticism-as-sedition-lawyers-welcome-delhi-hc-verdict-quashing-uapa-case-against-activists-1815309-2021-06-16