Journalist Sashi Kumar has moved the Supreme Court against the sedition law, arguing that it was being applied in a politcised manner to target those who criticise the government, Live Law reported on Saturday.
Kumar submitted an intervention application in a plea filed by two journalists – Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha from Manipur and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla from Chhattisgarh – challenging Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code that penalises sedition. Based on this petition, the Supreme Court had in April agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law. It will hear the plea again on July 12.
Kumar cited the examples of filmmaker Aisha Sultana, journalists Vinod Dua and Siddique Kappan and climate activist Disha Ravi to highlight how the sedition law was being misused.
Sultana was charged with sedition for criticising Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel for his decision to relax Covid-19 protocols. She had said during a TV debate in June that the Centre was using Patel as a “bio-weapon” against residents of the islands. Earlier in July, the Kerala High Court refused to stay the proceedings against her.
Dua faced sedition charges for criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Shyam had filed a complaint against Dua, accusing him of spreading rumours and misinformation about the communal violence in Delhi in February 2020 through his YouTube show. On June 3, the Supreme Court quashed the charges against him.
- Delhi violence: SC quashes FIR with sedition charges against journalist Vinod Dua
- ‘Can’t jail citizens just for disagreeing with government’: What the Disha Ravi bail order says
Kappan had been arrested in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura last year while on his way to cover the a gangrape and murder case in Hathras. The Uttar Pradesh Police alleged that he was going to Hathras to disrupt peace as part of larger conspiracy and charged him with sedition and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
In June, a court in Uttar Pradesh had dropped three bailable offences against the journalist but he continues to be jailed under sedition and UAPA charges.
Meanwhile, Ravi was arrested in February for sharing and editing a document intended to amplify the protests against the Centre’s new farm laws. The Delhi Police filed a first information report on sedition charges against the creators of the document, which they claimed called for economic warfare against India.
A court in Delhi granted her bail the same month, saying there was nothing on record to suggest that Ravi subscribed to any secessionist ideas.
Citing these cases, Kumar said the “vague and overboard” sedition law had a chilling effect on the right to free speech, according to The Hindu. He added that there was a big jump in sedition cases since 2016.
In February, a new database launched by Article 14 showed that 96% of the sedition cases filed against 405 Indians for criticising political leaders and governments over the last decade were registered after the Narendra Modi government first came to power in 2014.
“The law is not a measure simply aimed at the purported objective,” he added, according to Live Law. “It goes beyond the aim it seeks to achieve. Also, alternate legal provisions and laws in the Penal Code itself exists including inherent vagueness of the terms used in the law, the chilling effect of the law etc were not correctly appreciated by the court. The impact of the impugned law on rights, in particular the rights to equality and freedom of speech is perverse”.
Kumar argued that even without the section pertaining to sedition, criminal laws in India could sufficiently deal with matters related to “violence, public order and threats to the security of the state,” he added, according to The Hindu