Mere criticism is not #sedition, govt says in draft guidelines #draconianlaws #justice


Published: Friday, Oct 19, 2012, 19:33 IST
Place: Mumbai | Agency: PTI

Having burnt its fingers over the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, the Maharashtra government today submitted a draft circular to the Bombay High Court, which says that a criticism of political leaders or government per se does not call for pressing of the charge of `sedition‘.

Advocate General Darius Khambata submitted a six-point circular to the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice NM Jamdar during the hearing of public interest litigation filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe against Trivedi’s arrest on sedition charge.Trivedi was arrested over some of his cartoons that allegedly insulted the national emblem and the Parliament.At an earlier hearing, high court had granted bail to Trivedi and come down heavily on the police for arresting him on “frivolous grounds” and “without application of mind”.

The government had also stated then that it was dropping the charge of sedition, and would come out with a circular specifying the limitations and parameters for application of sedition charge in future.The draft circular submitted today says that sedition charge would apply if the act creates disaffection towards the government and incites violence.

“Words, signs or representations must bring the government into hatred or contempt or must cause or attempt to cause disaffection, enmity or disloyalty to the government. They must be incitement to violence or must be intended to create public disorder….” it says.Words, signs of representations against politicians or public servants per se do not fall under the category of sedition.”Comments expressing disapproval or criticism of the government with a view to obtaining change of government by lawful means are not seditious under section 124 (a) of IPC.

Obscenity or vulgarity should also not be taken into account under this charge,” the circular reads.Further, says the circular, police officials should seek a legal opinion in writing from the law officer, followed by that of the public prosecutor, before applying sedition charge against any person.

The court today heard arguments of Khambata, Marathe and Trivedi’s lawyer advocate Mihir Desai on whether the HC needs to include any more guidelines. But no order was passed.Trivedi, though the sedition charge has been dropped, will still have to face a case under National Honor Act and Information Technology Act for three of his cartoons which were also put on internet.The Kanpur-based cartoonist, associated with Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement, was arrested on September 8, which had led to public outcry.

The Trials Of A Political Prisoner: Arun Ferriera recounts custodial torture, life and irony in prison


Arun Ferreira, a civil rights activist, spent four and a half years inside Maharashtra’s prisons because the police believed that he was a Maoist. He speaks of life inside prisons, of hierarchies behind bars and the ubiquity of torture in police custody.

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAVED IQBAL

Thirty-year-old Arun Ferreira hails from a middle-class Catholic family in Bandra, Mumbai. He became a political activist in his college days, active in Naxalite-affected eastern Maharashtra and during the Khairlanji killings. On May 8, 2007, he was arrested as he got off the train at Nagpur railway station from Mumbai.The police charged him under Sections 10, 13, 18 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

In a few months, eight more cases were slapped against him, including two of murder, an attack on a police station, and an explosion in Gondia. He was acquitted of all charges by the High Court in September 2011, but re-arrested outside Nagpur Central Jail just days later in front of his family, on September 27. He was charged for two more cases in Gadchiroli, again acquitted of one, and now out on bail for the other.

Ferreira has filed a case against the state on his re-arrest. There’s a touch of irony about it, as this was a subject on which he did his post-graduate master’s thesis while in jail, speaking to other prisoners who had suffered the same practice, which he describes as standard operating procedure for keeping political activists in jail.

Ferreira graduated from St Xavier’s College, married his college sweetheart, and worked in the Navjawan Bharat Sabha, an organisation active during the 1980s textile strike. That was his initial foray into political activity. He was
active in the bastis throughout the 1990s against demolition drives and for the regularisation of slums, supported by his family and his wife. He worked predominantly with youth, educating them on their rights, and eventually began to network with different people’s movements across Maharashtra, including anti-displacement struggles, Dalit and adivasi movements.

Now, a free man, he recounts his life in prison, from an activist for justice after the Khairlanji Dalit massacre, to time spent in the same jail barracks as those on death row for Khairlanji. He fought for the abolition of capital punishment; he went on a hunger strike for 27 days for basic rights in prison, and petitioned the High Court about his torture in police custody. The petition was thrown out.

He talks about his treatment and his debates with police officials, and his day-to-day routine as a prisoner in one of the most political prisons in Maharashtra state: Nagpur Central Jail.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

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