Chennai: MDMK general secretary Vaiko, who is set to file his nomination for contesting the Rajya Sabha polls, was on Friday convicted by a court here in a 2009 sedition case and sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for a year. Special court for trial of MPs and MLAs, judge J. Shanthi, held Vaiko guilty of sedition as his speech came under the scope of creating disaffection against the government, which is covered in Section 124 A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Following a plea, the sentence was subsequently stayed for a month for letting him file an appeal against the order.
Senior advocate P. Wilson, quoting provisions, including the Representation of People Act, said there was no legal impediment to Vaiko contesting the Rajya Sabha polls. MDMK, an ally of the DMK, has been given one Rajya Sabha seat as part of a pre-poll arrangement for the Lok Sabha election.
According to the prosecution, Vaiko’s speech on July 15, 2009, while releasing the Tamil version (Kutram Saaturgiren) of his English book “I accuse,” on the Sri Lankan issue, attracted punishment for ‘sedition’ as he spoke against the Indian government.
“I happily accept the one year imprisonment awarded by the court for speaking on the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka and in support of the LTTE,” Vaiko told reporters outside the court soon after receiving the verdict.
According to the MDMK chief, the book was a compilation of his letters to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking redress for the Lankan issue. He had also submitted a memorandum to Singh, in which he had alleged that lakhs of Tamils in Sri Lanka were killed by the Army using the weapons and monetary support extended by India. The compilation of letters in English was reproduced in his book released in 2009 soon after the Eelam war ended there with the death of LTTE chief V. Pirabhakaran.
A sedition case was filed against him for his speech at the book launch event. He was acquitted in the same case by another court previously. However, another sedition case was filed against him for the speech he made at launch of the Tamil version of the book. Vaiko's speech at both the events broadly centred around his accusation that Indian government was responsible for the killings of the Tamil people in Lanka. The MDMK chief had also declared his readiness to lead young people from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka to fight for the cause of Tamils. “Killing Tamils (in Sri Lanka) does not mean that there will be no one to question them (Lankan government). The youth (from Tamil Nadu) will be ready to struggle by carrying arms,” he had said at these events, adding he was willing to lead such youth to Sri Lanka.
The special court judge said sedition included acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance to law and order or incitement to violence and whoever tried to excite, attempts to excite came within the scope of Section 124 A. “Whether that act resulted in violence is immaterial,” the judge said in the judgment. “In the result, the accused is found guilty under section 124 A of the IPC and convicted and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for a term of one year and also has to pay a fine of Rs 10,000,” she ordered. Default in remittance of fine would entail an additional one month simple imprisonment, the court said.
The court said the “hatred message,” was delivered just two months after the death of LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran in 2009. Given this background, “at that time there was danger to the security of the state and Central (governments) and the mood of the people of the state was in a boiling situation.” “The position of the accused in society and his speech made would have a tendency to create major impact on the mind of public and the consequential effect which the accused would surely be aware to be produced in the mind of the people.”
Vaiko, who was present in the court, said he never sought any leniency in punishment. He said he was prepared to accept the maximum punishment, even life imprisonment. A petition was filed to suspend the sentence enabling an appeal against the order. Subsequently, the sentence was stayed for one month and surety was also furnished by Vaiko in this regard. (With PTI report)
‘Never sought leniency as told by judge’
Vaiko has alleged, both inside the court hall and later at his media interaction outside, that the judge had acted in malicious manner in writing in her order that he had sought leniency in punishment. He had never sought leniency and was prepared to even serve a life term in jail if the court believed he was guilty of sedition for declaring support for the LTTE.
“I was hit by a thunderbolt when I read through the court order and found she had said I had sought leniency in punishment. I had never asked for leniency and would happily serve life-term but then, the judge had written untruth in her order that I had pleaded for leniency. I told her even in the court she made a mistake”, said Vaiko before launching a high-decibel diatribe against judge.
“To write such a thing (sought leniency), the judge must have had poison in her mind. I told her even in the court that I had not sought leniency and was willing to be in jail for life if the court finds me guilty of sedition. Unless there is venom in the mind of the judge, such an atrocious sentence would not have been included in the judgment”, Vaiko said.
It remains to be seen how the judiciary will view this outburst by Vaiko, particularly his accusation that the judge had “venom in the mind” and his assertion that he would continue to support the LTTE (a banned militant organization).
Also, the MDMK chief has reiterated that he would continue to sow the seeds of support for the LTTE among the youth in Tamil Nadu and it was pretty much true that he had declared at that book release function he was willing to lead an armed group of Tamil Nadu boys into Sri Lanka to fight for justice for Eelam Tamils.