If Ramya can be charged with sedition why not PM and others?

Modi government has scrapped 1,159 obsolete laws, so why not the utterly misused section 124-A?

 |  4-minute read |   23-08-2016
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Actor-turned-politician Ramya, whose real name is Divya Spandana, recently visited Pakistan to attend the SAARC summit for young parliamentarians. After her visit she expressed her views on the overall experience, saying the people of Pakistan were very welcoming and once they knew she was from India, they went out of their way to make her stay comfortable.

Refuting defence minister Manohar Parrikar's statement that "going to Pakistan is like going to hell" she said, "Pakistan is not hell. People there are just like us. They treated us very well".

Her statement that Pakistan is not hell was enough to outrage Pakistan baiters and Pakistan haters. A petition was filed against her at the judicial magistrate's court demanding that she should be booked under sedition charges for her comments.

The private petition was filed by advocate Vithal Gowda who was apparently appalled that she dared praise Pakistan. A case under CrPC Section 200 has been filed against Ramya. A petition has also been filed, asking the police to file a complaint against her under IPC Section 334. The case will be heard on August 27.

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Saying 'Pakistan is not hell' has led to sedition charges being filed against actor-turned-politician Ramya.

The moot question is - can calling "Pakistan is not hell" be termed seditious? And if her utterances warrant sedition charges, what about other Indian leaders who visited Pakistan or praised it? Shouldn't similar charges been made against all of them?

Why a sedition law that can be more misused then used?

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only went to Pakistan but spent over an hour at his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif's ancestral home near Lahore. After the visit, he tweeted:

If Ramya's visit and statement warrant sedition charges, then why not Narendra Modi's visit and tweets? Like Ramya, he too went there and praised his host.

Also read: Ramya doesn't deserve sedition; India must throw the law out

Similarly, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh, too, went there. Should they also face criminal cases? In 2005, LK Advani went to Pakistan and said, "there is a little bit of India in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistan in every Indian."

If Ramya's statement is sedition, then Advani's words were blasphemous. But no one was booked, then why target Ramya?

It certainly reeks of cheap publicity by those who want to generate controversy at the cost of Ramya. And also to enhance their political graph by nurturing the extreme rightwing Hindutva fringes. There is no doubt that this charge will not withstand judicial scrutiny.

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Sedition charges were filed against Amnesty International India for an event on Kashmir in Bangalore.

We have seen how the sedition law has become one of the most misused sections of the Indian Penal Code. It has been used against Amnesty International India, Kanhaiya Kumar, Hardik Patel, S Kovan, Aseem Trivedi, Seema Azad, Arundhati Roy, Binayak Sen and Praveen Togadia to name a few.

Also read: How ABVP used sedition to silence Amnesty India

While Ramya is facing it for saying "Pakistan is not hell", Praveen Togadia had been charged with sedition for violating a ban order and carrying a trident. How can either of that be considered sedition?

In 1922, Mahatma Gandhi said, "Section 124-A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen."

Later India's first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, described Section 124-A as "highly objectionable and obnoxious" and told Parliament, "The sooner we get rid of it the better."

It is shameful, that despite the wishes of leaders like Gandhi and Nehru to scrap the sedition law, it still holds a pride of place in our law books.

If we want to make our democracy strong and nurture one of its basic tenets, that is freedom of speech, then this law has to go.

Narendra Modi government, which has scrapped 1,159 obsolete laws, must scrap India's most misused law, namely section 124-A.

But I worry if calling for the scraping of the sedition law may itself be considered seditious now?

Writer

Ashok Upadhyay Ashok Upadhyay @ashoupadhyay

Editor, India Today Television.

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