Maharashtra government issued a circular on 27th August 2015 to the state police instructing them to take action against those who express views that are critical of policies and activities of the politicians and elected representatives of the government. Lok Raj Sangathan stands for the right of all citizens to conscience, the right to hold and express their views that are not racist, fascist, communalist, or otherwise lower the dignity of human beings. Governments claim to derive their power from the people and on that basis, people certainly have every right to express their views on the activities and policies of the government, whether they support or oppose these.

The above-mentioned circular is based on Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code. This section deals with sedition and says, "Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine."

Such a law has been widely condemned as infringing on the right of the citizens to freedom of expression and conscience. This law was brought in by the British colonial rulers to suppress all opposition to their rule. Thousands of patriots fighting for India’s freedom were given life sentences under the Sedition law. Governments that rule in the name of the people but serve the interest of a tiny minority find it necessary to retain such draconian laws to suppress people’s movement for assertion of political, economic and social rights. In recent times, several prominent people have been jailed under this law. Doctor Binayak Sen who was also the national Vice-President of PUCL was charged with Sedition in 2007, convicted in 2010 and was awarded life sentence for supposedly sympathising with Naxalites. Writer and political activist, Arundhati Roy was charged under the Sedition law in November 2011 for advocating the right of the Kashmiris for self-determination and punished. In 2012 this law has been used to imprison Aseem Trivedi for drawing a cartoon allegedly disrespecting the national emblem.

India is a land where many different thoughts, religions and points of view have flourished from time immemorial; therefore it goes against the psyche of our people when they are told that they cannot freely comment on the activities and policies of the government. Such a law is anachronistic in this day and age. LRS calls upon all democratic and justice-loving people to condemn the recent circular of the Maharashtra government, instructing the state police to implement the Sedition law, and also to demand that the Sedition law as well as other black laws like the AFSPA and UAPA be repealed immediately.

Prof. Bharat Seth

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