New Delhi: A district lawyer in Kanpur, Abdul Hannan, has been charged with sedition for retweeting a video of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath while calling him a ‘terrorist’.
The original tweet, by the state information department’s media advisor Shalabh Mani Tripathi, had a video of Adityanath speaking in the state assembly. He was supporting lathi charge against anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters.
“Tum kagaz nahi dikhaoge, aur danga bhi failaoge, to hum lathi bhi chalvayenge, gharbaar bhi bikvayenge… aur haan poster bhi lagwayenge (You will not show the papers and will also participate in riots, then we will lathi charge, auction your houses and put up posters),” Tripathi had said while tweeting the video. The “posters” he is referring to are the controversial hoardings in Lucknow with names, photographs and addresses of anti-CAA protesters that the administration has put up.
तुम काग़ज़ नहीं दिखाओगे, और दंगा भी फैलाओगे, तो हम लाठी भी चलवाएँगे, घरबार भी बिकवाएंगे, और हाँ … पोस्टर भी लगवाएँगे 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/9HZh58158j
— Shalabh Mani Tripathi (@shalabhmani) March 13, 2020
Hannan shared this tweet critically, calling the chief minister a terrorist.
In a separate tweet, the lawyer said he would provide free legal aid to protesters and appealed to all the “Constitution lovers” to share his tweet.
“We have registered an FIR against the person. He has been arrested and sent to jail after being produced before the court,” Ajay Seth, station house officer of Kalyanpur police station, told the Indian Express.
This is not the first time the sedition law is being invoked against social media posts, even though the Supreme Court has stated that this amounts to misuse.
As The Wire has previously reported, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that sedition is constituted by written or spoken words which “have the effect of bringing contempt or dissatisfaction or the idea of subverting government by violent means”. In Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar, the apex court said that if comments, however strongly worded, do not have the tendency to incite violence, cannot be treated as sedition.
The court also ruled in Balwant Singh v State of Punjab that raising pro-Khalistan slogans cannot amount to sedition as it evoked no response from the other members of the community.
The Twenty First Law Commission, in a working paper, also noted that criticising the government does not amount to sedition and that “people have a right to express dissent and criticise the government”. It said a higher threshold should be set to prosecute people for sedition law. “Sedition as an act of trying to destabilise the government should only be invoked in cases where there is a real threat or actual use of violent means to overthrow the democratically elected government,” the report said.