It has been almost a fortnight, since the Sedition Debate has spread across this country (India), courtesy the so called media hype and lumpen lawyers. The issue arose from the events of 9 February 2016, when certain students sought the permission of Vice-Chancellor to organize a cultural evening which snowballed into this sedition debacle.
JNU is popularly known for the intellectual giants that have been produced by this country. This University was created as an annexe to Delhi University to offload the burden of the rapidly rising strength of students and teachers in Delhi University. But soon it became the hub of intelligentsia of this country, known all over the globe. Currently, students from all parts of the territories of India and the world are enrolled in this smaller university, representing one of the finest examples of ‘Unity in Diversity’ on the Globe. The much popular word of Prime Minister Modi (Vasudev Kutumbkam ) is truly represented by this University in India.
On the evening of 9 February, students of the campus shouted slogans against the evil social practices in this country which are known to be prevalent in all the Universities of India, including JNU.
Some of the students or perhaps their guests or intruders, unfortunately displayed the picture of Afzal Guru, a known terrorist to whom the Apex Court of India had pronounced the death sentence, which was executed on 9 February, three years back during the Congress-led UPA Regime.
These persons, including guests and intruders also demonstrated certain slogans against India. If it is found to be convincingly true in a Court of Law that this sloganeering was done by the students, then they could be indicted for the Contempt of Court and not for the offence of Sedition, if at all the police manages to get corroborative evidence to substantiate its claim.
The Supreme Court of India has already lain down that mere talk is not sedition and should be followed by actions. Kanhaiya Kumar may move against the Delhi Police for unlawful detention on a misrepresented complaint. The BJP MP who lodged an FIR may also be sued for malicious prosecution by Kanhaiya Kumar.
Hand-in-Glove of the McCarthics in the BJP led NDA regime, the Delhi Police will do their best to prove their point to shirk from their responsibilities in this debacle. But the fact remains that will the incident be truthfully uncovered and see the light of the day? Or, will it remain a mystery as the Ishrat Jahan Case? The patience of every Indian is being tested by the present Modi dispensation, though every Indian respects him as the Prime Minister of India.
The confusion did not exist in the minds of the titular McCarthics seeking hype and pseudo-glorification, claiming to be on the sidelines of the Modi Government. The huge vandalism distracted a number of precious minds of the JNU Campus, while those in power were willing to seek further glorification and patronization. Be it the BJP MLA from Delhi who created ruckus in Patiala House, or be it Mr. Bassi, the Police Commissioner of Delhi; all were seeking to be the true patriot (opportunists) of the Modi Government and not of the Nation. It is precisely because of these reasons that Prime Minister Modi did not jolt a word for the incident. But the Police Commissioner is all set to get his glorification, in becoming the Chief Information Commissioner of India, courtesy the Modi Government!
There are also more people seeking further glorification. A former Supreme Court Judge is stated to have said that he doesn’t believe in that judgement (Kedarnath Das v State of Bihar AIR 1962 955). In his view, sedition means propagating some views which are against the nation. But, he further said that as long as the judgement of the Supreme Court is there, he is bound to say “It’s the law of the day today”. He submitted that he is one of those persons who would say that the judgement should be changed. While on the other hand Mr. Sinha, C.J.I. had observed in the said judgment “Comments, however strongly worded expressing, disapprobation of actions of Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal” under section 124-A. In other words, he further laid down that “disloyalty to Government established by law is not the same thing as commenting in strong terms upon the measures or acts of Government, or its agencies, so as to ameliorate the condition of the people or to secure the cancellation or alteration of those acts or measures by lawful means, that is to say, without exciting those feelings of enmity or disloyalty which imply excitement to public disorder or the use of violence”. This judgment operates as lex superior on this day.
It must not be forgotten that this draconian law was created to ward off the mutiny during the British sovereignty over colonial India. The word ‘sedition’ does not occur in Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code or in the Defense of India Rules. It is only found as a marginal note to Section 124-A, and is not an operative part of the section but merely provides the name by which the crime defined in the section is known in India. It is known to be misused by the governments in power in India like Article 356 of the Indian Constitution.
Where was this Police Commissioner of Delhi, when I had lodged a complaint for an FIR (D.D. No. 47 B of 01/03/15 and duly communicated to the deputy of the Police Commissioner under his jurisdiction) for the offence of sedition against the then Chief Minister of J&K? This FIR was to be termed as ‘Zero FIR’ according to Law as it is in India. There was no investigation at all by the Delhi Police against the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, nor was it transferred to the State of J&K for any investigation.
The whole Nation was aggrieved, by the then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister for committing the offence of Sedition. But Modi Government was deeply interested in forging ahead with PDP and asking its police (As it is under the Central Government in Delhi) not to pay heed to the entire incident. Hand in Glove tactics worked well indeed! It is that inaction of the Police Commissioner which is now being rewarded to him in the post of Chief Information Commissioner after his retirement from Delhi Police. But at the behest of BJP MP, the Police Commissioner took swift action for the alleged offence of sedition, but not against Modi Government’s ally PDP’s Chief Minister of the state of J&K where the Prime Minister himself was present in the swearing-in ceremony.
While it is true that every Indian feels proud to belong to this country, but the McCarthic Practices ushering in the Modi Government is one of the strongest challenges that it faces today. This is a frantic moment for the entire JNU fraternity of India and the overseas, to fight against such poor McCarthic practices in the order of the day.
Mohit Kumar Gupta, a JNU alumnus, is the Deputy Chair on Nuclear Disarmament at International Council of Jurists, London and an advocate at The Supreme Court of India. Views expressed are personal.