Thursday June 20, 2013
Sedition Law is Against Spirit of DemocracyDr. Binayak Sen Special to Salem-News.com
The process of building up political alternatives has to be based on holding -- and advocating -- views that are contrary to those held by the current holders of power.
(NEW DELHI) - Our Human Rights Ambassador, William Nicholas Gomes, is an extremely serious Human rights Defender and we were appalled when he was threatened with a Sedition charge over a poem he wrote about his home country, Bangladesh. This article published by Times of India by Dr. Binayak Sen goes to the heart of the matter and calls this practice out for what it is, and we add our voices to the chorus of those calling for an end to this undemocratic process. (see: Sedition Charges Against Journalist in Bangladesh?)
I was convicted of sedition (section 124 of the IPC) on December 24 (Christmas eve), 2009, and awarded life imprisonment by the additional sessions judge, Raipur. I had already spent two years in jail as an undertrial before the Supreme Court granted me bail. Following my conviction, another four months was spent in a solitary cell before the Supreme Court suspended the sentence and granted bail, remarking in the process that there did not seem to be any evidence against me. A hearing of my appeal in the Chhattisgarh High Court is now awaited.
Afew days ago, human rights organizations gathered in Delhi to welcome back from jail Seema Azaad, the general secretary of the UP PUCL. She had also been convicted of sedition and awarded life sentence on the basis of some innocuous documents found in her possession , and then was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court after having spent two-and-a-half years in jail.
I was reminded of all these events when i joined the Mumbai Press Club to greet the young cartoonist, Aseem Trivedi, following his release from jail on September 12. He had spent four days in jail after being charged with sedition , allegedly because of the content of some of his cartoons . These charges were deemed to be so patently absurd that Aseem's incarceration aroused a storm of protest, resulting in his prompt release.
Sedition is said to have occurred when any attempt is made to bring the government of the day into disaffection . Mohandas Gandhi was convicted of sedition by the British Imperial government in 1922. Arguing his own case, Gandhi told the judge that he had no affection for the British government and, moreover, he felt it was his duty to inform his fellow citizens as to why he had no affection for it. While convicting Gandhi, the British judge felt it necessary to apologize to Gandhi for his act, to which he was bound by his duty as a judge.
Such stories are part of the folklore of sedition, and create the impression that sedition is about well-known or relatively resourceful people standing up to a bumbling state power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most important lesson i learnt in jail was that there are vast numbers of people accused of sedition and incarcerated for this reason. To take just one example, several hundred very ordinary men and women participating in the peaceful anti-nuclear agitation in Kudankulam have been charged with sedition.
The state today stands guarantor, under the doctrine of eminent
Special thanks to Kamal Rajapakse in London
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