NGO Common Cause moves SC challenging misuse of sedition law -Priyanka Mittal
NGO Common Cause said in a petition that governments and law enforcement agencies had abused sedition laws to gag dissent, suppress freedom of speech and expression and to muzzle critical voices
New Delhi: Common Cause, a non-governmental organization, on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, alleging misuse and misapplication of sedition laws by successive governments, leading to routine persecution of students, journalists and intellectuals engaged in social activism.
Common Cause said in a petition that governments and law enforcement agencies had abused sedition laws to gag dissent, suppress freedom of speech and expression and to muzzle critical voices.
The petition filed by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan urged the apex court to make it mandatory for any government agency to produce a reasoned order from the director general of police (DGP) or the commissioner of police before complaint is filed or an arrest made on charges of sedition.
The petition called for a review of pending sedition cases to determine whether the allegedly seditious act either led to the “incitement of violence or had the tendency or intention to create public disorder.” Mint reviewed a copy of the petition.
The petitioner’s case is based on a judgment passed by the apex court that only those acts which involve incitement to violence or actual violence make for a seditious act.
The petition contended that according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Report, 2014 as many as 47 sedition cases were reported in that year alone across nine Indian states. Many of them did not involve violence or incitement to violence, which is a prerequisite for a sedition charge, the petition claimed.
Common Cause claimed that sedition laws were being increasingly used to threaten activists with legal action to intimidate civil rights groups and activists into keeping quiet.
The petition pointed to sedition cases filed against writer Arundhati Roy, political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, civil rights activist Binayak Sen, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and film actor Aamir Khan.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with sedition, lays down that whoever, by words or signs, attempts to bring hatred or excite dissatisfaction towards the government established by law, would be punishable under the law.
The punishment could range from a fine, three-year imprisonment coupled with a fine to life imprisonment.
Livemint.com, 17 August, 2016, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/nx1XLPFAkcUizu4KmDtj4O/NGO-Common-Cause-moves-SC-challenging-misuse-of-sedition-law.html