HYDERABAD: Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana’s observations on enforcement of sedition law, that it was time for the government to drop it from the statutes, have been welcomed by several persons who have faced, or continue to face, charges under the law. However, they said they were not sure if the government would act on the Chief Justice’ views and wondered if the government would keep using the sedition laws as has been the case with Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act which, despite being struck down, was still used to slap cases on people.
Some of the prominent persons from Telangana booked under Sedition Act are octogenarian poet-activist Varavara Rao, Osmania University professor Chintakindi Kaseem, and student leaders. They were booked under sedition and other stringent laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Public Security Act (PSA).
Speaking to this newspaper senior journalist N. Venugopal, the nephew of Varavara Rao, said, "Varavara Rao was incarcerated in jail for more than two years because of the sedition Act. On the same day, when the Chief Justice was making the remarks, farmers were booked under the sedition law on the borders of Delhi in Haryana state."
He said that even if the Supreme Court did strike down the law, we still did not know how strictly it would be implemented. Citing the example of Section 66A of Information Technology (IT) Act, he said, "The Section 66A of IT Act has been struck down in 2015. However, the cases were booked under the same section even after six years. The government has an excuse that the striking down of section 66A is included in a footnote so many law enforcement officials did not notice it and implemented it."
More than the sedition Act, UAPA and Public Security Act are threats to democratic nations. Under UAPA, the person having an opinion of his own is wrong, added Venugopal.
Prof. Kaseem, who was booked under sedition law, said, "From the comments of Chief Justice Ramana, I am hopeful that the law would be struck down. I had to spend almost six months in jail and my bail was rejected several times because the sedition charge was slapped against me. Many of them would have the preoccupied notion that if a person is booked under sedition charges, he is an anti-national and working towards dethroning the government, but it is not that case."
He added that a university professor like him had to undergo such a tough time due to the sedition law. Imagine the students and the tribals who were booked under these stringent laws, he added.
A student leader who was booked under sedition Act on the condition of anonymity, said, "My whole life was spoiled by just one law. In other words, they killed me. The Indian government has to justify their actions of how a sedition case is booked against Indians. It is a barbaric law which was implemented by British rulers against Indians."
Expressing the struggle he faced after being slapped by the sedition Act he said, "After we were booked under sedition law, society had looked at us differently like untouchables and socially ostracised. Even in jail I was looked at differently and had to spend a year within the four walls of a special cell. As the court rejected the bail several times, it had a huge psychological stress on me."
He further added that if fighting for the depressed classes and questioning the power was a crime, the government would have stated the same and booked me under sedition charges. "I would have undergone the jail term, without any regret. But the police booked me under a false case and on top of it, they slapped the sedition Act. My precious life had been destroyed in one shot. How will I get a job now and lead a respectful life," said the students’ leader.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh coordination committee member of Human Right Forum (HRF) S Jeevan Kumar said, "Sedition law which was brought in the colonial period is barbaric and should be struck down immediately. It is a threat to the voice of democratic people and being used to curb the voice of the voiceless."
It is pertinent to note that the Chief Justice of India observed that "the enormous power of the sedition Act is like giving a saw to the carpenter to cut a piece of wood to make an item. But he uses it to cut entire forests."