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Editorial

TOI EDIT-Abusive Law

October 11, 2019 05:34 AM

COURTESY TIMES OF INDIA OCT 11

Abusive Law
Scrap sedition. Its distinction from free speech is lost not just on cops but also magistrates
The Muzaffarpur police decision to recommend closure of the sedition case it lodged against 49 eminent citizens was the right thing to do. Criticism of the government and writing a letter to the Prime Minister is not sedition and the police appear to have belatedly recognised this fundamental pillar on which democracy stands. The problem extends beyond police action. Continuance of a law that the British wielded to jail freedom fighters who questioned their misrule was bound to be abused by governments that followed.

There is little cause for relief over one case being closed as more will keep popping up in some state or another. If it is not the police and government which goes after critics it could be an overzealous individual like the serial litigant in this case, Sudhir Ojha, who drags hapless citizens to police or court accusing them of sedition. While the Muzaffarpur police say Ojha will face the music for filing the frivolous case, it cannot be forgotten that a magistrate, Suryakant Tiwari, had failed in his duty to separate fact from fiction.


Even a cursory read of the letter which condemns lynching and hate crimes would have disproved sedition. Yet an FIR was directed to be lodged. The Patna high court must take note of such judicial officers who fail to apply their mind. Over the years, Supreme Court orders have restricted the ambit of the sedition law to a direct and immediate incitement to violence akin to a “spark in a powder keg”. But the message hasn’t travelled down the judicial or police hierarchy. Given the repeated abuses, repealing the sedition provision in the Indian Penal Code is the only feasible solution before government and constitutional courts.

 

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