It is indeed shocking that the chief judicial magistrate of Muzaffarpur in Bihar should allow a petition to institute a case for sedition, among other sections of the IPC, against 49 leading figures from the world of the arts and scholarship.
In the eyes of the petitioner, these prominent personalities ought to be proceeded against merely because they wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in late July this year to express their horror at the incidents of mob lynching against members of the dalit and Muslim communities. They had urged him to take steps to expeditiously end this frenzy of crimes that has overtaken the country since the first Modi government took office in 2014. The petitioner before the CJM may be a crank. It is said he frequently goes to court against celebrities as a means of self-advertisement. On the other hand, he may be an ideologically or politically motivated individual. His status should not detain us. What should concern us is the evident non-application of mind by the CJM.
Sedition is a serious crime against the country. India is not yet a one-man or one-party dictatorship. Politically, highly objectionable developments have occurred in the country in recent years that have a majoritarian and communal colour. Even so, we are not a banana republic. Indeed, Mr Modi is able to draw attention to India and to himself, especially when he travels abroad, because India is the world's most populous and diverse — and for that reason extremely complex — democracy. In light of these well-known facts, how dare the magistrate in question confuse the PM, who is merely the head of government at the present juncture, with the country and the State? It will be in the fitness of things if the Patna high court immediately quashes the CJM’s order to the police to file FIRs against the well-known and respected persons on the ground of sedition and on other equally phoney counts. The magistrate should also be hauled up and made to answer some tough questions by the higher judiciary. Among those who e
xpressed their concern are Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap and the historian Ram Chandra Guha, a Gandhi scholar. None of them has any known party affiliation, and even if they did it would not vitiate the logic of their argument. As citizens they are perfectly within their right to appeal to the highest member of the country's political executive to set right a very serious wrong. Lynching is straightforward murder.