Typing Test


Past couple of weeks have raised several questions over what constitutes "right to dissent" in India, without transgressing restrictions to Freedom of Speech and expression. The idea that Freedom of speech and expression is limited and can be revoked when one resorts to incitement or flaming passions, is well cemented by the law. What surprised however was the application of sedition, suitably extended to a bunch of students shouting under a tree. To be outright honest, when the JNU row first came into prominence, I was in a fix. Could anything be said on the pretext of freedom of Speech and Expression? Isn't questioning the sovereignty of a country tantamount to criminality? While I was trying to come to terms with the slogans that were raised at JNU on that fateful night, state acted swiftly. The leader of the JNU Student Union, Kanhaiya Kumar was booked under sedition; a law that implicates those who use "words, signs or visible representation to excite disaffection against the government". In this context, Kanhaiya Kumar, a student leader who may/may not have organised a march in support of a slain terrorist Afzal Guru or raised slogans calling for a breakdown of the Union of India, was at the centre stage. The slogans raised that night offended several thousand Indians. The rage was evident on social media, venom was spewed on TV every night and general discourse was antagonistic. The imperative question, however remained, were the course of events that night seditious? The Supreme Court in its judgement in Kedar Nath Singh Vs. State of Bihar in1962 clarified the outreach of sedition for the first time in independent India. The court said that the law should only be applied to "cases where an accused person intended to create public disorder or incite violence". Going by this strict definition, a student mob sloganeering in a college campus may have disgruntled or even besmirched some nationalists; it cannot be allowed to castigate offenders. The incessant uses of sedition in cases such as Assem Trivedi, a cartoonist and an anti-corruption crusader arrested in 2012, has only highlighted the misuse and cheery picked application of the law in the past. Trivedi's cartoons, lampooning the state of affairs in the country, may have been distasteful; were far from exciting "disaffection" or invoking "contempt or hatred". Other controversial cases of sedition in the country include figures like Arundhati Roy, Hardik Patel and most recently, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Sitaram Yechury for the JNU row. In fact the archaic law of sedition, meant to suppress the voice of Indian republic in the pre-independence era, has been scrapped by its founding father, the English parliament while the Indian government uses it as per its whims and fancies. Introduced in the IPC in 1870 by the British regime in India, Section 124 (a) (sedition) was conveniently used by the government to shut the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant. Needless to say, the government used it to control the public discourse and ensure stability, at that point in time. Post independence, in a parliamentary debate in 1951, late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru famously remarked, "[Section 124-A] is highly objectionable and obnoxious...The sooner we get rid of it the better." While scrapping still remains a farfetched idea in 2016, it's crucial to remember that sedition is, as observed by the Supreme Court, "incitement to violence or creation of public disorder". The only light in the tunnel so far is the introduction of a private member's bill by congress MP Shashi Tharoor to amend the sedition law, but the current circumstances have divided opinions more than ever. Whether the bill will pass through remains to be seen; it's important that court ensures an upright interpretation of the law and the state does not act in fear or favour. Past couple of weeks have raised several questions over what constitutes "right to dissent" in India, witho