Sedition law shouldn't be misused: Araga Jnanendra

Sedition law shouldn't be misused, but no choice when nation's interest is harmed: Araga Jnanendra

'It doesn’t mean that you randomly file sedition cases against people'

CM Basavaraj Bommai and Home Minister Araga Jnanendra meeting with Senior Police officers at Conference Hall, Vidhana Soudha. Credit: DH photo

Home Minister Araga Jnanendra faced his first big challenge with the Mysuru gang-rape case.

The 4-time MLA even courted controversy after blaming the victim for going to a deserted place, a comment he subsequently withdrew. The debutant minister tells Araga Jnanendra Shruthi H M Sastry his plans and the way forward. Excerpts:

A first-timer, you were made home minister. Did this come as a surprise to you?

I believe it was a reward for my experience and sincerity. I’ve been in public life for 45 years. The organisation recognised my efforts. Home is a unique portfolio meant to ensure peace. I want to work towards it.

What are your focus areas?

Tackling drug menace is on top of the list. The second is to address the system where some police officials have normalised harassing the public. This should stop and strict action has to be taken against such officials. I also want to ensure that overstaying foreigners are dealt with as per law. Be it the Rohingyas or any other community... there’s always an aspect of sympathy that they’re here for livelihood. But, it also becomes a challenge to monitor nefarious activities, if any.

The coastal region has been communally sensitive. Will you take special measures there?

I recently visited Mangaluru and spoke to officials there. The coastal areas have ‘foreign’ concerns and officials have to be stern. There are cultural ties with Pakistan, including marital relations, which isn’t a problem. But, we need to be alert about other activities. Police have to work effectively.

BJP leaders want ‘false cases’ against pro-Hindu activists to be withdrawn.

Such cases have piled on over the years. During the Siddaramaiah-led Congress regime, we saw many instances. Police would have filed an FIR to induce fear. There’s no point in dragging these cases if the accused don’t have any criminal record. Appearing before the court can often be humiliating and civilians should not be harassed like that. We’ll review all fit cases for withdrawal.

It’s alleged that several people were slapped with false cases in the DJ Halli-KJ Halli riots.

We’ll definitely review. But, in this incident, the police have gone by CCTV footage and there were no random arrests. Eight of the accused are still absconding. We’ll continue our search. I believe the police did a good job.

The drug menace continues in spite of several arrests over the years. What’s your approach to tackling it?

The drug racket has grown complex over the years. It has reached a stage where the police are unable to pin down the guilty. We can’t think that we’ve solved it by arresting a few. We have to dig deeper with thorough research.

Racial profiling, especially of Africans, is a concern when it comes to drug cases. Don’t you think the police need sensitisation?

No. People from certain countries are more involved in this racket. I’m not generalising, but citizens from certain countries don’t have other sources of income. Drugs have become profitable for them. The police are cracking down on such individuals.

There are demands to repeal the ‘sedition’ law as it is often misused.

I agree that the provision must not be misused. But, when people act against the interest of the nation, there’s no choice, but to seek recourse in the existing legal provision. However, it doesn’t mean that you randomly file (sedition) cases against people.

Cyber crimes are rising. What measures will you take?

On September 6 and 7, I’m visiting Gujarat with senior police officials. In Ahmedabad, we’re signing an agreement for a training programme on cyber crime. We’ll strengthen our cyber cell division.

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