Sedition law has become a joke

Sedition law has become a joke

The continued incarceration of Patidar reservation movement leader Hardik Patel in jail on sedition charges is wrong, lacking in justification and in violation of all principles of justice. Patel is being held in a Surat jail from October last year after he led an agitation by the Patidar community in Gujarat for recognition as a backward community and bestowal of the benefit of reservation in education and employment. Two cases of sedition and waging war against the nation have been slapped against him. His applications for bail have been rejected by some courts, though the final decision on appeals is yet be made. What stands out in the episode is the state government’s readiness to invoke the country’s most stringent law against an individual for entirely political reasons, for the relent-less harassment and persecution of that individual and the vulnerability of any person in the country to capricious and arbitrary action on the part of the state.

The Patidar community’s demand for reservation may not be acceptable. In fact, there is hardly a ground to justify the demand. But that does not deny them the right to hold an agitation raising their demand. In a democratic country, people have the right and freedom to raise even the most unreasonable demands. It is true that the agitation was marked by violence and destruction of public property. Other agitations have also witnessed violence. Hardik Patel made provocative statements too. But these do not provide sufficient ground to invoke the sedition law against him. There are other laws that can be used to adequately deal with them. The BJP and its governments have now chosen the sedition law as a weapon to persecute people, including students from universities, for political reasons. Suddenly, the country has a large number of anti-nationals who deserve no mercy and leniency. Even silence may turn seditious, as refusal to say Bharat Mata ki Jai has already been dubbed anti-national.An important judicial principle is that bail is the norm while jail is an exception. But the Gujarat government has been trying to keep Hardik Patel in jail for as long as possible on the most untenable and unconvincing grounds. This is against the basic rights of citizens and shows the government’s authoritarian tendency to misuse or go beyond the law to deny individuals and groups their democratic freedoms. Even though the Gujarat government has accused Hardik Patel of sedition, it is trying to mediate with him on the demands raised during the agita-tion. Why is it talking to and dealing with an anti-national? That shows how the genuine the charge is.
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