Skip to main content

Don't make use of archaic sedition law to curb freedom of expression: Amnesty on Kerala youth's arrest

By Our Representative
Amnesty International India has sharply criticized the arrest and detention of a 25-year old man accused of sedition for allegedly disrespecting India’s national symbols, pointing out that this suggests "how archaic laws continue to be used to curb free speech in India.” In a statement, Amnesty, a human rights organization with presence in several countries, said, “On August 20, 2014, police in Kerala arrested Salman M for allegedly making catcalls and not standing up when India’s national anthem was being played at a cinema two days earlier.”
This made the authorities accuse him of “sedition, insulting the Indian national flag and Constitution, and preventing the singing of the national anthem”, Amnesty said, adding, not only this, Salman M was also accused under section 66A of India’s Information Technology Act for allegedly publishing abusive social media posts about Independence Day on August 15. A Thiruvananthapuram court denied him bail on 25 August”. The top NGO apprehends, Salman M could “face a life sentence if convicted.”
Giving the statement on behalf of Amnesty, Shailesh Rai, programmes director, said, “A criminal charge for such conduct, even if some might regard it as offensive, is completely unwarranted, Nobody should have to go to prison merely because they are accused of causing offense. The Constitution of India and international law recognize the right to freedom of expression, and this right extends to speech that offends or disturbs. Authorities must respect this fundamental right, not seek to curb it.”
Demanding that the case against Salman M should be “dropped and he must be released”, Amnesy stressed, “Indian laws on sedition and online free speech do not meet international human rights standards on freedom of expression. These laws must be urgently repealed.” It added, “India’s archaic sedition law has been used to harass and persecute activists and others for their peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.”
Pointing out how Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as any act or attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or…excite disaffection towards the government”, Amnesty recalled, even “Mahatma Gandhi had called the law ;the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen’.”
It added, “Section 66A of the Information Technology Act criminalizes acts including sending information that is ‘grossly offensive’ or causes ‘annoyance’ and ‘inconvenience’. The law is imprecise and overbroad. It can be used to violate legitimate exercise of the right to free speech and can lead to arbitrary arrests. A number of activists and legal experts have challenged the constitutionality of section 66A.”
Amnesty pointed out, “The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a state party, has expressed concern regarding laws on issues such as disrespect for flags and symbols.” Amnesty’s protest against the sedition law comes following a submission it made before the Law Commission of India in June 2014 (click HERE to read) where it insisted on the need to undertake critical legal reforms to better defend the right to free speech.
Saying that this is important against the backdrop of a “growing trend of intolerance towards dissent and criticism”, elucidating the submission, Amnesty underlined, “Authorities have shown a worrying eagerness to arrest and detain people for the lawful exercise of their constitutional rights to free speech, especially when it concerns the new Prime Minister.”
Giving examples, Amnesty said, “In May 2014, police in Bangalore arrested a man for sending a photograph on his phone depicting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a funeral pyre. The same month, police in Panaji, Goa filed a First Information Report against a man who said in an online post that if Narendra Modi came to power, it would lead to a holocaust.”

Comments

TRENDING

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Union Budget 'moves away' from Right to Education, 1.3 lakh schools closed down

By Dr Aparajita Sharma*
It was a shocking reply by the Union human resource development minister to a question raised in Parliament on closure of schools in a country where lakhs of children are still out of school. On December 2, the minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, told Lok Sabha that the NITI Aayog’s education project, Sath-E, has led to 35,996 schools of different levels being merged in Madhya Pradesh, 4,312 in Jharkhand and 1,803 in Odisha. NITI Aayog is the Central Government’s policy think-tank.

CAA-NPR-NRC will 'target' 99% homeless, who are without birth certificates: NCU

Counterview Desk
Claiming to base on a survey in five states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu), which finds that over 99% of the homeless people do not have birth certificates, a civil rights organization which networks activists, researchers, urban practioners, lawyers, informal sector workers, has claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as also the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR), are likely to adversely impact this section the most.

Modi 'warned': Will not remain silent when women are labelled terrorists and traitors

Counterview Desk
As many as 13 women's rights organizations and 162 individuals have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that in the light of hate speeches during Delhi elections, especially directed against women, it is his "Constitutional duty to protect all citizens" and tell his partymen "to fight the elections in a manner that upholds the Constitution, not one that increases the fear and insecurity among women."

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Anti-CAA: Mallika Sarabhai joins students, faculty to protest dy CM's 'divisive' talk

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to deputy chief minister Nitin Patel’s statement against those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), well-known danseuse Mallika Sarabhai has joined tens of activists and students and faculty of Gujarat University, CEPT University, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, Gujarat Vidyapeeth and Nirma University to say that they are seeking “azadi” from the fascist and communal forces of the country.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.