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FINALLY – Maharashtra – Obscenity no ground for sedition

Aseem Triveid's cartoon that landed him in jail for sedition

Aseem Triveid’s cartoon that landed him in jail for sedition

MUMBAI: Obscenity or vulgarity by itself cannot be a factor for considering whether a case falls within the purview of section 124 A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code, states a circular issued by the home department on Wednesday.

The circular has been issued on
the directions of the Bombay high court, which, on a criminal PIL, laid down guidelines to be followed by police personnel while invoking section 124A. The judgment was delivered in March this year by a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice
N M Jamdar.

The guidelines state, “Words, signs or representations against politicians or public servants by themselves do not fall in this category (section 124A) unless the words/signs/representations show them as representative of the government.”

The circular states that words/signs/representation must bring the government (central or state) into hatred or contempt or must cause or attempt to cause disaffection, enmity or disloyalty to the government and must also be incitement to violence or intended or tend to create public disorder or a reasonable apprehension
of public disorder.

“Comments expressing disapproval or criticism of the government with a view to obtaining a change of government by lawful means without any of the above are not seditious under section 124A,” reads the circular.

It states that police personnel must obtain legal opinion in writing from the district law officer followed by, within two weeks, legal opinion in writing from the public prosecutor of the state, before invoking the section.

In January 2012, political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was charged with sedition for his cartoons during the India Against Corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare (see box). Trivedi refused bail unless the charge was dropped. A criminal PIL was filed in the high court.

The petitioner’s advocate, Sanskar Marathe, appealed to the court to examine the legal position so that such invocation was not resorted to in future in an arbitrary and irresponsible manner. Human rights activist and advocate Mihir Desai said the circular would put boundaries on the behaviour of the police. “If the circular is implemented properly, it would help a large number of people. It would go a long way in protecting freedom of speech and expression,” he said.

State: Obscenity no ground for sedition – The Times of India

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