Sedi­tion Must Go

This is the great­est trib­ute we can pay Ma­hatma Gandhi on his 150th birth an­niver­sary

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Epiphany Of Ideas -

To­day marks the Ma­hatma’s 150th birth an­niver­sary, which will see many re­count­ings of the sto­ried po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of the ‘fa­ther of the na­tion’, and in which many rich trib­utes – mostly sym­bolic – will be paid to him. But if those trib­utes are to ex­tend be­yond the sym­bolic and be­come truly mean­ing­ful, one story in par­tic­u­lar is worth re­count­ing. Hauled to court on the charge of com­mit­ting sedi­tion on ac­count of three ar­ti­cles he wrote in Young In­dia, Ma­hatma Gandhi termed the pro­vi­sion “the prince among the po­lit­i­cal sec­tions of the In­dian Pe­nal Code de­signed to sup­press the lib­erty of the cit­i­zen.” That sedi­tion re­mains the law of the land de­spite the British exit 72 years ago is an in­sult to the mem­ory of count­less free­dom fighters who em­braced prison for long years to win us the cher­ished right to free speech.

Sedi­tion con­tin­ues to be pressed against crit­ics of gov­ern­ment, those crit­i­cal of rul­ing par­ties or ide­olo­gies, and even where crit­i­cism takes the form of song, dance, art or so­cial me­dia posts. Poorly framed laws lend them­selves to mis­use and it is no sur­prise that sedi­tion with its broad def­i­ni­tion of any­thing that at­tempts to bring “ha­tred or con­tempt, or ex­cites or at­tempts to ex­cite dis­af­fec­tion to­wards the gov­ern­ment” fits this bill. Sec­tion 66A of the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Act was struck down on sim­i­lar grounds.

Since 1962, Supreme Court and high courts have kept step­ping in to quash friv­o­lous sedi­tion cases against jour­nal­ists, politi­cians, artists, ac­tivists, etc. But while SC was con­cerned enough to nar­row sedi­tious ex­pres­sion down to in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence and pub­lic dis­or­der akin to a“spark in a pow­der keg”, these nuances are lost on po­lice of­fi­cers ea­ger to please po­lit­i­cal masters. Re­peal­ing sedi­tion would be the great­est trib­ute In­dia can pay the Ma­hatma on his 150th birth an­niver­sary.

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