The Delhi lieutenant-governor’s decision to sanction the prosecution of author Arundhati Roy and former professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain is an assault on democratic values and is condemnable, Opposition leaders said on Saturday.

On Friday, Delhi Lieutenant-Governor VK Saxena allowed Roy and Hussain to be prosecuted under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which pertains to inciting an unlawful activity and is punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment. The case pertains to a 2010 conference during which they allegedly gave provocative speeches about the separation of Kashmir from India.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) asked why Roy was being prosecuted for a speech that she gave 14 years ago. “Defies logic except the fascist kind,” the party said on X. “Timing is suspect since courts are on vacation, as are lawyers. Shameful and Condemnable!”

Congress leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Hariprasad PK described Roy as a “brilliant mind, an internationally renowned writer, and a leading intellectual”. He alleged that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party manufactures crises every day to “distract and overwhelm dissenters” so that it could divert attention from its failures.

“This assault on free expression & democratic values is unacceptable,” the former MP said.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra said: “If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA BJP [is] trying to prove they’re back, well they’re not. And they’ll never be back the same way they were. This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against.”

However, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla accused the Congress of placing its vote bank above national interest. “Has the Congress ecosystem decided to stand with whoever speaks the language of separatists?” he asked. “…Why do they feel so much pain for separatism and terrorism?”

The case

Roy and Hussain were booked based on a complaint filed on October 28, 2010, by Sushil Pandit, identified as a social activist from Kashmir.

Pandit had alleged that various speakers delivered provocative speeches on October 21, 2010, at a conference organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners under the banner of “Azadi - The only Way”.

He stated that the issues discussed at the conference pertained to the “separation of Kashmir from India”, which could jeopardise public peace and harmony.

In October, VK Saxena, the Delhi lieutenant-governor, had sanctioned the prosecution of Roy and Hussain under sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to promoting enmity, assertions prejudicial to national-integration and intentional insult to provoke breach of peace.

On Friday, Saxena sanctioned the prosecution of the author and the former Central University of Kashmir professor under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.