- Lakshadweep Filmmaker Aisha Sulthana has moved to the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail.
- A case of sedition has been filed against her due to the remarks made by her over the new regulations introduced in the island.
- The FIR has been filed by a BJP worker.
- Sedition in India has been defined under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code.
- A person guilty of sedition can be charged with life imprisonment, or fine, or both.
- Cases of sedition have increased over the recent years.
Lakshadweep movie producer Aisha Sulthana has moved towards the High Court of Kerala looking for pre-arrest bail for the case of sedition filed against her over her comments against the island administration's newly introduced guidelines. She is looking for the grant of an anticipatory bail in the FIR registered by Kavaratti Police Station under Section 124A (sedition) and 153B (acts against public integration) of the Indian Penal Code. The FIR is based on an objection taken by a BJP member against the supposed comments made by Aisha Sulthana during a channel discussion about the Government of India utilizing a "bio-weapon" against the island occupants. The bail application has been filed under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This was after Sulthana was served with a notice under Section 41A CrPC asking her to come to the Police Headquarters in Kavaratti, for the case investigation. The movie producer says that she made the 'bio-weapon' comment with regards to reprimanding the administration for loosening up the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions, which had then prompted a sharp rise of pandemic cases in the island, whereas there had been not so much as a single COVID case till January 2021. Lakshwadweep has been seeing an outstanding rise in the COVID-19 cases because of the relaxations made in the quarantine protocols, and it is in this context that the alleged comments were made, as stated by her in her bail plea. The application further expresses that criticising the Government on policy driven issues doesn't comprise the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. Alluding to the Supreme Court judgment in the Kedarnath Case, it is contended that a simple remark against the Government is not equivalent to sedition if there is no incitement to violence.
ARGUMENTS PUT FORTH
References have been made to the new Supreme Court judgment in the Vinod Dua case, where the Court had stated that a citizen has the privilege to censure or remark upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries, insofar as he doesn't incite people to commit acts of violence against the Government or to create public disorder. In the given case, there is no proof that the statement made by the bail applicant has caused disrespect towards the Government and sparked off violence among the civilians. It was only directed towards the lackadaisical approach of the Government. Aisha Sulthana says that on understanding that her comments had started off a controversy, she gave a clarification on social media that she never had any goal to ferment antagonism or contempt towards the Government and offered a statement of regret. It is additionally presented that the offences under Section 153B of the Indian Penal Code won't be held against the applicant as the words verbally expressed aren't contrary towards public integration or cause disharmony or sensations of hostility or disdain or malevolence. Senior Advocate P Vijayabhanu would be representing Sulthana in the bail application.
As defined in Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, sedition refers to an act done through spoken or written words or by signs and visual representation or otherwise that brings hatred and contempt and excites disaffection towards the Government of India. A person charged under this Section is to be punished with life imprisonment which may be coupled with a fine. The term ‘disaffection’ hereby refers to disloyalty and enmity. Comments disapproving of Government measures with a view to alter them lawfully, without inciting hatred or violence or civil unrest does not count as sedition.
● KEDARNATH V. STATE OF BIHAR [1962 AIR 955]: This was the first landmark case of sedition that was tried in the courts of independent India. In this case, Kedarnath Singh, a Forward Communist party member was charged under this section for inciting and calling for a revolution against the ruling Government. The constitutionality of the provision was challenged. The Supreme Court, in this case, differentiated between disloyalty to the Government and commenting on Government measures without inciting hatred and violence. The Supreme Court held that only those matters which have the tendency to incite violence are deemed seditious.
● TARA SINGH GOPI CHAND V. THE STATE [1951 CriLJ 449]: In this case, the Punjab-Haryana High Court struck down Section 124 A and held it as unconstitutional and contrary to the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.
● RAM NANDAN V. STATE [1959 CriLJ 1]: Held by the Allahabad High Court that SECTION 124 A imposed limits on the Freedom of Speech and hence was declared ultra vires.
● BALWANT SINGH AND ANR. V. STATE OF PUNJAB [Crl Appeal 266/1985]: It was held by the Supreme Court that mere raising of slogans against the Government cannot be said to be equivalent to creating disaffection towards the Government.
● INDIRA DAS V. STATE OF ASSAM [(2011) 3 SCC 380]: The Apex Court ruled that the provisions of sedition have to be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the Fundamental rights.
While the Anti-Sedition law may not be rejected, it tends to be transformed to confine its application to just those situations where the discourse or activities by people are incredibly derisive and represent a genuine danger to the public safety and integrity. The punishment for an individual charged for sedition ought to be made more sensible, as per the evolving times. Today, with more noteworthy right to speak freely and articulation and more grounded views on the Government among the majority, the crime of sedition as a rule doesn't warrant imprisonment up to a lifelong sentence. Additionally, it is possible in instances of sedition that the individual's words were taken out of context to the issue at hand or that they were said without giving it much thought. Unless the rebellious activities have really carried substantial harm to another, they ought to be managed all the more normally.