NEW DELHI: Demanding scrapping of sedition laws, the CPI on Saturday expressed solidarity with the 49 celebrities who were booked after writing an open letter to the prime minister voicing concern over incidents of mob lynching.
In a statement issued through its office secretary Roykutty, the Communist Party of India (CPI) claimed it firmly stood for independent judiciary at all levels but situations like this were bound to strengthen the apprehension that judicial systems were used to harass and intimate the critics of present BJP government.
"All these individuals are eminent personalities who are known for their contributions in various fields of art, culture and academics. The response of the given court to the complaint of an over-ambitious lawyer almost amounts to disallowing any public criticism of state and government," the party said.
The FIR was lodged in Bihar's Muzaffarpur against the celebrities, including Aparna Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Ramchandra Guha, for alleged sedition after they wrote the open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The FIR was registered on Thursday under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those related to sedition, public nuisance, hurting religious feelings and insulting with an intent to provoke breach of peace.
The CPI said it confirmed its apprehension that the country was moving fast towards a "fascist totalitarian regime, stifling democracy where fear is ruling everywhere and political opponents are put in jails on flimsy and false charges to languish in prisons with bails being rejected repeatedly".
The party alleged that it was a grave situation with dangerous consequences as the courts appeared to be aiding oppression by the government. The CPI claimed it was frightening that some lawyers themselves becoming a party to the oppression of the State.
"The CPI appeals to the community of lawyers to help in protecting democracy, secularism and stand for suffering people of our country. The CPI reiterates that these infamous sedition laws that were used essentially against all freedom fighters by British should be scrapped. Let us recall that (Mahatama) Gandhi ji called for scrapping of these laws. In a democracy, the right of people to criticise government openly for any reason should be welcomed and be treated as sacrosanct and certainly not as sedition. The CPI strongly expresses solidarity with the signatories of this open letter," the party said.
The court had ordered lodging of FIR on a petition that accused the 49 signatories of having "tarnished the image of the country and undermined the impressive performance of the prime minister", besides "supporting secessionist tendencies".
Among those who wrote the letter July this year, were filmmakers Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal, actor Soumitra Chatterjee and vocalist Shubha Mudgal It said that the lynching of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities must be stopped immediately, while stressing there was "no democracy without dissent". It also noted that the 'Jai Shri Ram' slogan was reduced to a "provocative war cry".