Against the backdrop of the JNU row, noted lawyer Mihir Desai on Sunday said even if JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar had shouted slogans against the government, he cannot be charged with “sedition” as per the Supreme Court’s past rulings.
“The Kanhaiya episode is a repetition of ‘Gandhian blunder’ by (Prime Minister) Modi-ji, Amit Shah and Smriti Irani,” Desai said, speaking on ‘Sedition and the Spectre of the anti national’ during a two-day conclave on ‘Celebrating pluralism and freedom’.
“Gandhiji was also arrested under this law by the British government who thought they could propagate their ideas this way. But this was their biggest blunder….Lokmanya Tilak had been arrested under this law in 1897 when he had written against the government’s handling of plague (epidemic) in Bombay Province,” he said.
In the pre-independence era, one could be charged with sedition for spreading `disaffection’ against the government, but the law had now changed, he said.
“The Supreme Court, while passing the judgement in Kedarnath case in 1962, had said that this law needs to be seen in a diluted manner. According to the Supreme Court, a person can be charged with sedition if spreading disaffection against the government leads to violence and public disorder,” he said.
Therefore, as in the cartoonist Asim Trivedi’s case who was also charged with sedition, he expected the courts to grant bail to Kanhaiya the next day, Desai said.
“This was not a case whether he shouted slogans or not. Even if he did, it did not amount to sedition. We may disagree with him but unless it caused violence, it was not sedition,” the senior counsel, who has represented some of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots, said.
“Section 124 (A) (sedition) of IPC has to go, like the section 377 (which makes homosexuality an offence) which should be abolished. The UK government has abolished both but we haven’t,” he added.