Sedition law cannot be used to quell disquiet, says Delhi court

Youth held over posting fake video on Facebook granted bail

Charges of sedition “cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants”, a Delhi court observed while granting bail to a 21-year-old labourer. The youth was arrested for posting a fake video on Facebook about the Delhi police on the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana remarked that in the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence, the sedition law cannot be invoked against anyone.

Mr. Swaroop Ram had posted a fake video on his Facebook page with the tagline ‘Delhi Police mae bagawat 200 policekarmiyon ne diya samuhik istifa. (Rebellion in Delhi Police, 200 policemen have resigned en masse) Jai Jawaan Jai Kisan #I_Support_ Rakesh_ Tikait_ Challenge”.

The Delhi police stated that the video was related to an incident in which a senior officer was briefing police personnel at the protest site and encouraging them to tackle the situation properly.

The public prosecutor submitted that Mr. Ram had not only made a sensational Facebook post with an intent to spread disaffection against the State but had also committed forgery. He said the offence committed attracted charges under sedition, forgery and of spreading rumours.

Mr. Ram, in his defence, submitted that the material alleged against him was “innocuous in nature and was, in fact, an expression of emotions uttered in disagreement with government policies”.

Taking note of submission from both sides, ASJ Rana said, “The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the State to maintain peace and order in society. However, it cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants”.

“I have personally seen the video in the courtroom wherein evidently a senior police officer of Delhi Police is raising slogans, in a very agitated tone, and a group of Delhi Police personnel are seen standing besides him,” the judge said.

“The background voices also suggest a very charged up atmosphere. It was informed by the IO (investigating officer) that the applicant (Mr. Ram) is not the author of the said post and he has merely forwarded it,” the court added.

“In the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence or any allusion or oblique remark or even any hint towards this objective, attributable to the applicant accused, I suspect that Section 124A IPC (sedition) cannot be validly invoked against the applicant,” the court said.

The court also questioned the Delhi police how they added the offence of forgery in the present case “unless there was some false document”.

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