While defending the state home department’s controversial circular that lays down guidelines for the police to invoke sedition charges against those criticising politicians, CM Devendra Fadnavis made sure to point out opposition to the circular was uncalled for, because the guidelines were a result of an affidavit filed by the previous Congress-NCP regime in the Bombay high court.
Fadnavis said there was no room for wrong interpretation, as the circular contains safeguards. “This is not a decision by my government or cabinet minister. It is a circular issued on the basis of a high court order... It is clear all conditions in the circular are meant to be read in conjunction,” Fadnavis said, during a chat with a few media persons on Saturday.
He added, “The opposition has no business to create uproar, as it is based on the affidavit filed by their government in court.”
HT had reported on Saturday the home department circular issued last week had sparked criticism, with activists and the Opposition calling it a move to muzzle public opinion. Fadnavis said those against the circular were free to challenge it in court.
Read: In Maharashtra, you risk sedition charges for criticising politicians
The circular was issued after the Maharashtra government submitted in the Bombay High Court in the case related to sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in March this year that it would issue guidelines to the police for applying section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code. Trivedi was arrested in 2012 for drawing cartoons that allegedly insulted the Parliament and national emblem.
Fadnavis said much of the uproar was over the condition that charges of treason could be invoked if criticism of politicians and public servants, in their capacity as government representatives, is seen as causing hatred. He said this condition was being perceived as protective of legislators.
“Legislators and MPs are defined as public servants in the Prevention of Corruption Act in an Apex Court order. When one is okay with them being public servants for corruption charges, the same should work for other laws.”
“If someone says we should overthrow this government, send a corrupt minister to jail or that police are inefficient, it won’t attract sedition charges. But, if one attacks democracy or the Constitution and incites violence… these charges can be pressed,” said Fadnavis.
Meanwhile, a Congress delegation, led by state president Ashok Chavan and Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, met Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The delegation said the state interpreted the HC’s directives in a convenient way, and plan to clamp down on citizens’ freedom of expression.
AAP’s Subhash Ware said: “Dissent is the cornerstone of democracy. We expected the government, especially after the Aseem Trivedi case, to remove ambiguity in the section. But this circular is draconian, unconstitutional and unacceptable.”