New Delhi: UK-based Taran Kaur Dhillon – popularly known by her rapper name ‘Hard Kaur’ – has been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including sedition for posts on social media sharply critical of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
According to a report in the Times of India, the complaint was filed in Varanasi by lawyer Shashank Shekhar under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 153 (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion), 500 (defamation) and 505 (intent to incite), and Section 66 of the IT Act. Navbharat Times noted that Shekhar is an RSS member.
Kaur’s Facebook and Instagram pages feature posts referring to Adityanath as ‘rapeman’ and blaming the RSS for Hemant Karkare’s death. In fact, Karkare was killed while fighting terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, though a section of Hindutva politicians – BJP MP Pragya Thakur, for example – have said the anti-terror policeman got his just deserts for acting against Hindus accused of terrorism.
In another post, she blamed RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for a number of terrorist crimes, including Pulwama.
Shekhar’s complaint says that he was “deeply hurt” by Kaur’s comments.
Amar Ujala quoted a police inspector as saying that the investigation was being handed over the Crime Branch’s Surveillance Cell.
Hard Kaur is known for her Punjabi rap renditions in various Bollywood songs.
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. Recently, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel insisted that the sedition charge be revoked against a man who had criticised him on social media.
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.
The slapping of criminal defamation and IT act charges also represent a misapplication of law. A criminal defamation case has to be initiated by the ‘defamed’ person before a magistrate, and Section 66 of the IT Act deals with hacking – an offence that is clearly not made out in the current instance.