From Disha Ravi to Arundhati Roy, SC sedition law stay to impact several high-profile cases

News Network
May 11, 2022

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New Delhi, May 11: In the wake of the Supreme Court order staying the registration of FIRs, ongoing probes and coercive measures under the sedition law, all eyes will be on the fate of several high-profile cases registered under the draconian British-era law.

According to a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, a total of 356 cases of sedition -- as defined under section 124A of the IPC -- were registered and 548 people arrested between 2015 and 2020, out of which only six were convicted.

A 21-year-old Bengaluru-based environment activist, Disha Ravi, was arrested by the Delhi Police on February 14, 2021 for allegedly creating and disseminating a "toolkit" on the farmers' protests against farm laws brought by the BJP government at the Centre.

The toolkit was tweeted by Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg on February 3, 2021.

The Delhi Police registered an FIR against Ravi, who was working at a vegan store in Bengaluru and fighting for environment issues since her student days, under IPC sections 124A (sedition), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups).

Ravi was granted bail on February 23, 2021 by a Delhi court, which stated that "the offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments".

Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana said citizens are "conscience keepers" of the government in any democratic nation, and they cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with State policies.

In 2016, a group of students from the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University had held a poetry session to mark the third anniversary of the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru. The Delhi Police later charged the then JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar, along with other students and union leaders, including Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, under section 124A and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Three Kashmiri students, who were enrolled in the RBS Engineering College, Agra under the PM Special Scholarship Scheme for the students of Jammu and Kashmir, were arrested on October 28 last year for allegedly posting a WhatsApp status praising Pakistani players after their victory against India in a T20 cricket match.

They were languishing in prison till April 26 this year even after securing bail on March 30 from the Allahabad High Court due to the non-availability of local guarantors, a high-security amount and police verification.

Some noted journalists like late Vinod Dua had to face the wrath of the draconian law for views expressed by them on social media.

Dua, in his programme on Youtube on March 30, 2020, made remarks against the government's handling of the Covid crisis, following which an FIR was registered against him by the Himachal Pradesh Police under the sedition law and other charges on a complaint by a BJP leader in Shimla.

The sedition charges were quashed by the Supreme Court which held that journalists are entitled to protection in sedition cases so long as they do not incite people to violence against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.

Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police while he was on his way to report the rape case of a Dalit woman in Hathras on October 5, 2020.

The FIR against him claimed that he was going to Hathras with the intention "to breach the peace" as part of a "conspiracy".

The Special Task Force of Uttar Pradesh, in its charge sheet filed in April last year, charged eight people linked to the Popular Front of India, including its students' wing leader K A Rauf Sherif and Kappan, for sedition, criminal conspiracy, funding of terror activities and other offences.

Booker Prize winner writer and activist Arundhati Roy was booked under the sedition law, along with Hurriyat leader Late Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others, in 2010 for their alleged "anti-India" speech at a seminar.

Roy and others were charged under sections 124A, 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 504 (insult intended to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (false statement, rumour circulated with intent to cause mutiny or offence against public peace.

Student leader from JNU and IIT passout Sharjeel Imam is facing charges under the sedition law for making alleged inflammatory speeches during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2019.

A court has framed charges against Imam, who is in judicial custody since 2020, under sections 124A, 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC, and section 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Activities (UAPA).

As per the prosecution, Imam had allegedly made speeches at Jamia Millia Islamia on December 13, 2019, and at Aligarh Muslim University on December 16, 2019, where he threatened to cut off Assam and the rest of the northeast from India. In his defence, Imam had earlier told the court that he is not a terrorist and his prosecution is a whip of a monarch rather than a government established by law.

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News Network
June 24,2022

Mumbai, June 24: Even before the Bharatiya Janata Party could officially speak about its support to Eknath Shinde’s revolt in Maharashtra, the rebel leader himself admitted on Thursday that he has been promised all support by the ‘mahashakti’ that has taken on Pakistan, giving clear indication of the BJP’s involvement. 

After his meeting with the party MLAs, MPs and leaders, Sharad Pawar confirmed the BJP as Shinde’s partner. Shinde made the reference while addressing the rebel Sena MLAs at the hotel they are staying put in Guwahati, Assam, after he was elected as their Legislative Party leader.
 
Shinde’s speech was recorded and the video was released by his office, after a few NCP leaders sarcastically commented that they didn’t see the BJP’s hand in the entire episode. “Let’s be together in happiness and in trouble. The victory is ours. A national party, a mahashakti that has taken on Pakistan…has told me that the decision I have taken is historic for the country. It has promised to provide us all help. You will see it,” Shinde says.

It was evident that Shinde and his group had already made up their minds to align with the national party [BJP]. The statement was seen as a rejoinder to the chief minister’s faction that appealed through party’s chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut, and gave the rebels 24 hours to return home. Thackeray would consider their demand for exiting the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition, they were told.

“If you are Sainiks, be brave and show guts to land in Mumbai,” said Raut. It sounded like an appeal laced with warning and instruction for the party workers to be ready to give a Sena-style welcome to the rebels.        

The video from Guwahati was released immediately after the Nationalist Congress Party leaders, including Ajit Pawar and state president Jayant Patil, commented sarcastically that they didn’t see the BJP’s hand in the entire episode. Congress party’s state chief Nana Patole, however, saw the BJP as a driving force. Patil wondered who was making all the arrangements, like the luxury stay and the aircraft, for Shinde’s group. Ajit Pawar and Patil said their party would stand by Thackeray to save the government. 

An hour before Shinde’s footage was made public, Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis left for New Delhi, in a signal that the BJP would come out with guns blazing to topple the Thackeray government. So far, the BJP has maintained a stoic silence. In fact, it issued a gag order to its leaders, especially the verbose ones. Sources said the BJP high command is in full control of Operation Lotus, and Fadnavis has been playing an important role. Neither Fadnavis nor other BJP leaders were available for a comment.   

After his meeting with the party MLAs, MPs and leaders, NCP chief Sharad Pawar confirmed the BJP as Shinde’s partner. “I have seen the video in which Shinde says a national party has supported him.” He then took out a list of Election Commission-approved seven national parties, and said that only the BJP among them could do it (because others are anti-BJP or have no stakes in Maharashtra).

“Ajit Pawar does not know about the situation or the (BJP) people in Gujarat and Assam. But I know people who are managing (the rebels) in Assam and helped them out in Gujarat,” the NCP boss said. He then went on to name Gujarat BJP president C R Patil, the BJP-led Assam government and the party leaders there.

On the crisis, Sharad Pawar said the rebels will have to come to Maharashtra Vidhan Bhavan. “The BJP may not guide them here. The majority will be proved on the floor of the House. We know why the MLAs went to Assam only after they were here.”

Cautioning the rebels about disqualification, the NCP president said their action was against the anti-defection law. “History proves that those who defected have lost by-elections as well. Similar possibilities cannot be denied in this case as well,” he said, recalling the defeats of Chhagan Bhujbal and others who had quit the Sena to join the Congress.

He also dismissed the Congress’s allegation of injudicious allotment of funds by Ajit Pawar, who also holds the finance portfolio. “The complaints are not factual,” he said while responding to Nana Patole’s accusation.

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News Network
June 25,2022

A member of parliament from Kerala has written an ‘urgent’ letter of appeal to the Union Minister of Civil Aviation to initiate urgent action over the ‘unprecedented’ hike in airfares from the Gulf region.

CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala Dr V Sivadasan wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on June 25, requesting the Minister to oversee the steep hike in airfares.

Airfares during the summer travel seasons from Gulf countries, including the UAE, will almost quadruple from July 1.

Schools in the region close for the summer so, several expatriate families fly home for the holidays.

Sivadasan wrote, “Foreseeing the upcoming surge of passengers as the Gulf countries are getting into summer vacation and the festive occasion of Bakrid (Eid Al Adha) the Airlines have made a hefty increase in the flight charges from Gulf countries to India.”

He said in the letter, “This unprecedented hike in fares is putting a heavy toll on the life savings of Indian workers in Gulf countries.”

“Taking into account the immense financial stress imposed by Covid-19 and economic slowdown, I request your kind intervention into the matter so that the Indian diaspora, waiting to come to their homeland are not fleeced by the flight companies,” stated Dr Sivadasan.

He requested Scindia to intervene and initiate urgent action.

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News Network
June 28,2022

Udaipur, June 28: A man was beheaded on Tuesday, 28 June, in Udaipur's Maldas street, after he published a social media post allegedly supporting former Bharatiya Janata Party’s suspended spokesperson Nupur Sharma's remarks against the Prophet. An investigation into the crime has been initiated.

Two men, claiming to be the murderers, posted a video message later in the day and sent out a threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As per the police, the victim, a tailor by profession, was attacked by a sharp-edged weapon. The video of the incident has gone viral on social media, which is being termed as a Taliban-style murder.

The police have reached the spot and further investigation is underway.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has appealed to the people to maintain peace.

"I condemn the heinous murder in Udaipur. Strict action will be taken against all those involved in the crime and the police will go to the bottom of the case. I appeal to all the parties to maintain peace. Strictest punishment will be given to those involved in such a heinous crime," he said.

In the viral video, one of the two accused could be heard saying, "I will make the video viral when I accomplish my goal to teach a lesson to the hate monger." He was also heard threatening PM Modi and Nupur Sharma.

Police sources said that the plot to murder this man was chalked out some 10 days ago.

Meanwhile, the local traders have shut their shops in protest against the brutal murder. A tense atmosphere has prevailed in the region. 

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