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Meant to suppress dissent, scrap all 'anti-democratic' laws, demand civil rights groups


By Our Representative

The Movement Against UAPA And Other Repressive Laws (MURL) chairperson Justice B G Kolse Patil, even as welcoming the Supreme Court's “historic order” on sedition, has said that the not only the sedition law but also Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the National Security Act (NSA), among others, should also be completely repealed.
Claiming that MURL along with other organisations have launched campaigns against these “repressive laws” over the last seven years, Patil said, there appears to be some success only in the case of the sedition law and the AFSPA.
Patil said in his statement, freedom of speech and expression are the basic principles of a democracy “and these itself are being targeted and compromised due to the sedition law”, adding, “A living and thriving democracy requires its citizens to actively participate in debates and express their constructive criticisms or views of the government policies.”
“However”, he said, “The sedition laws have empowered the executive and administrative branches of the government to use these ambiguously defined provisions as an instrument to regulate, suppress and smother public opinion and wield power indiscriminately.”
“The sedition law has become a tool to instill fear and force compliance towards the government policies in the common man. There have been many instances where the government has used the sedition aw to suppress protesting voices to protect its interests”, he added.
In a separate statement, Kirity Roy, who heads Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha said, he welcomes the interim order, with caution, by the three-judges bench of the Supreme Court presided by Chief Justice NV Ramana on putting a pause to the use of sedition law until further notice.
“This law has often been misused as a tool against free speech and dissent. The colonial law had mainly been used in the 19th and early 20th century against the Indian political leaders who demanded independence”, it said, adding, “In recent times it is being used by the government against students, journalists, film makers, teachers, even human rights activists and anyone else, who have been a protesting voice against the action/ decision of the state”.
“The conviction rate of this law in our country is only 3%, hence this law is nothing but a tool used by the political party in power to suppress the dissents. Even after 75 years of independence there are many such draconian laws, which proves that democracy has not been contextualized in India and we are still suffering from the colonial hangover”, Roy said.
According to Roy, “In the UK the sedition law was abolished in 2010. Laws like Section 197 of Criminal Procedure Code, Section 229 of Indian Penal Code are equally pernicious and should not find any place in modern democracy. We must remember that in 1860 when our penal code was established, the section 124A was not incorporated in the same; but in 1870, mainly with the purpose to suppress the Wahabi movement, the Britishers introduced the section 124A.”
“The law was later used against the freedom fighters, like Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi”, he recalled, adding it should be repealed without delay, because “laws like these are undemocratic, irrelevant and oppressive and have been weaponized as a medium of suppressing free speech.

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