Kashmiri Students Episode Is Zenith of Intolerance - The New Indian Express

Kashmiri Students Episode Is Zenith of Intolerance

Published: 09th March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 09th March 2014 12:54 AM

Incredible events do happen in our country. However, slapping charges of sedition against a contingent of Kashmiri students in Meerut’s Swami Vivekanand Subharti University because a few of them cheered Pakistan’s victory over India in the Asia Cup tournament, and other students found this unpalatable, was bizarre and patently illegal because it evinced total misunderstanding of what constitutes sedition. During the framing of our Constitution, ‘sedition’ described by Gandhiji as the prince of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was proposed in the draft Constitution as one of the heads of restrictions on freedom of speech and expression. K M Munshi strongly opposed this and moved an amendment for its deletion. Members of the Constituent Assembly supported Munshi’s amendment and ‘sedition’ did not disfigure our Constitution. Nonetheless, sedition remained in IPC in the form of Section 124-A. Fortunately, our Supreme Court in the celebrated case of Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar narrowed the ambit of the section and ruled that it did not apply to criticism, however pungent, of government and its policies and the section could be invoked only in case of acts or expressions which constitute incitement to violence and endanger public order. Despite the court’s ruling, Section 124-A (sedition) is frequently invoked in cases where it has no application as in the case of Kashmiri students. It is said that their act was a political statement and was unpatriotic. But assuming their act was unpatriotic, the grave offence of sedition is not committed. Besides, what is patriotism? I do not intend to enter into the definition game except to recall Dr Johnson’s celebrated quip that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Personally I disapprove of the cheering over our team’s defeat. But surely that cannot be equated with disloyalty or sedition. The students at worst were misguided and carried away by their over-enthusiasm and admiration for the Pakistan cricket team’s performance. Remember, the essence of democracy is to permit expression of thoughts and sentiments which are unpopular and distasteful rather than to proscribe and penalise them. This incident illustrates and highlights the rising menace of intolerance which refuses to permit freedom for ‘the thought we hate’.

Not unexpectedly, Pakistan has tried to secure political mileage by its offer to the concerned Kashmiri students to study in Pakistan where ‘our hearts and educational institutions are open’. The saddest part is that this incident has marred the game of cricket, already battered and bruised by match-fixing scams.

Sahara Group and Supreme Court: Subrata Roy of the Sahara group has hogged the print and electronic media. The admitted facts are that Sahara has till date failed to comply with the Supreme Court order regarding refund/repayment of the specified amounts. The group’s proposal for repayment are pending consideration before the court and it is not proposed to comment on the same. However, certain events and circumstances pertaining to the case may be noticed. For Roy’s non-appearance in the Supreme Court after hearing his counsel Ram Jethmalani at length, the court was not persuaded and Roy was remanded to judicial custody. Thereafter, the Supreme Court is again moved to consider his fresh proposal and for that a special bench comprising judges who initially passed the order in the case had to be constituted interrupting their other judicial work. On this occasion several senior lawyers appeared on his behalf and argued at length. The bench was not inclined to consider Roy’s settlement proposal and observed “you make us assemble and then you are saying you won’t be able to pay… the proposal should be honourable” and termed Roy’s action as an insult to the court. The court’s observations should dispel the perception that the rich and mighty alone can gain repeated access to the court as it suits them which is beyond the means of a person with modest means.    


Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India

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