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One more case of vindictiveness

One more case of vindictiveness

Author Arundhati Roy and academic Sheikh Showkat Hussain are sought to be prosecuted under Section 13 of the UAPA, which pertains to inciting unlawful activities, and is punishable with up to seven years of imprisonment.

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Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 00:17 IST
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Delhi Lieutenant-Governor V K Saxena’s decision to sanction the prosecution of author Arundhati Roy and academic Sheikh Showkat Hussain for speeches made 14 years ago is the first major signal from the new government that its vindictive instincts and habits are still intact.

The two are sought to be prosecuted under Section 13 of the UAPA, which pertains to inciting unlawful activities, and is punishable with up to seven years of imprisonment.

The case is based on provocative speeches about the separation of Kashmir from India, which the two made at a meeting in 2010 in Delhi. An FIR had been filed against the two in 2010 and sanction had earlier been given for prosecution only under IPC Sections.

But the more stringent UAPA has been invoked now, perhaps as an afterthought, and it will make bail extremely difficult. Trial is unlikely to take place soon and that will mean jail for an indefinite period for the two. 

There are no convincing reasons for reviving the case and to add UAPA teeth to it after all these years.

No-one would have to agree with Arundhati Roy’s opinion on the status of Kashmir to see that there is no reasonable case to prosecute her on its basis.

A major ground for questioning the bona fides of the decision is, apart from the long lapse of time, the change in stance of Delhi Police. It had not initially considered invoking the UAPA in the case. The rationale for invoking it on the basis of a speech is questionable.

The Supreme Court has said in the Kedarnath Singh judgement and in other orders that there has to be ‘actual violence or incitement to violence’ for legal action in a sedition case.

The unlawful activity Arundhati Roy has been accused of would relate to sedition, though it is not spelt out as such. The sedition clause may not have been invoked against her because the Supreme Court has kept all sedition cases in abeyance pending a decision on its constitutionality. But what the court said about sedition should be applicable to the case against her, too. 

The action against the writer has also been criticised on the ground of violation of the right to free speech and expression. She has been a persistent critic of the government and its policies and prosecuting her will be considered as yet another case of persecution and harassment of critics and dissenters.

She is a writer and activist of international standing and repute. The action against her, with political targeting and harassment written all over it, can only add more black to India’s image as a country where democratic freedoms are under increasing attack. 

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