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Sedition law can’t be invoked to quieten disquiet, says Delhi court


(This story originally appeared in on Feb 17, 2021)

New Delhi: The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the state to maintain peace and order in society and it cannot be invoked to “quieten any disquiet under the pretence of muzzling miscreants”, a Delhi court has observed.

The observation was made in the bail orders of two men, Devi Lal Burdak and Swaroop Ram, who were booked in the same FIR on charges of sedition, spreading rumours, forgery, etc, for allegedly sharing fake videos on social media during the ongoing farmers’ protest.

Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana observed: “In the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resorting 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 (sedition) IPC can be validly invoked against the applicant. In my considered opinion, on a plain reading of the tagline attributed to the applicant/accused, invocation of Section 124A of IPC is a seriously debatable issue.”

Sedition law can’t be invoked to quieten disquiet, says court

The judge observed that “evidently, law proscribes any act which has a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence.”

The counsel for the two men, Surendra Chaudhary, had submitted that the material alleged to have been shared by the two men was “innocuous” in nature and was, in fact, an expression of emotions uttered in disagreement with government policies. He also submitted that no offence of sedition or forgery was made out and at best a case under Section 505 of IPC was made out against the accused and was bailable.

Chaudhary submitted that police had completed the probe and had not sought further custodial interrogation of the accused. The additional public prosecutor opposed the bail applications arguing that the allegations against the men were “very serious” for they had not only made a sensational social media post with an intent to spread disaffection against the state but also committed forgery.

It was argued that the accused committed offences under Sections 124A, 505, 468 and 471 of IPC. In one of the orders, the court recorded police’s allegation that Ram reportedly posted a fake video on his social media page with the tagline “Delhi Police mae bagawat, 200 police karmiyon ne diya samuhik istifa.

Jai Jawaan Jai Kisan# I_Support_Rakesh_Tikait_Challeng (There is a rebellion in Delhi Police and around 200 police officials have submitted mass resignations. Hail the soldier, hail the farmer)”. The video was actually of a senior officer briefing police personnel at the site and encouraging them to tackle situation properly, police said.

The judge said, “I’ve personally seen the video in the courtroom wherein evidently a police officer of Delhi Police is raising slogans, in a very agitated tone, and a group of police personnel are seen standing beside him. The background voices also suggest a very charged-up atmosphere. It was informed by the investigating officer that the applicant is not the author of the said post and he has forwarded it. The applicant/accused is reported to be a 21-year-old labourer.”

In Burdak’s case, police alleged that he shared a fake video with the tagline “Delhi Police mae bagawat, 200 police karmiyon ne diya samuhik istifa”, but the video was of home guards venting their grievances against Jharkhand government. The court granted bail to the two men.

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