Faced with large scale outcry over mindless application of sedition charge against Kanpur-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, the state government has come out with a set of guidelines for police personnel before slapping the stringent charge against any person.
The guidelines propose to make it mandatory for police personnel to seek written legal opinion before slapping the charge under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code against anybody.
Advocate general Darius Khambatta and public prosecutor Revati Mohite-Dere submitted the draft guidelines in the Bombay high court on Friday. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Sanskar Marathe seeking declaration that Trivedi's arrest and detention was illegal, and slapping the serious charge of sedition against him was unjustified, absolutely uncalled for and unnecessary.
The guidelines propose to make it mandatory for police personnel to seek written and reasoned legal opinion from either the district prosecutor or the law officer attached to the office of the superintendent or commissioner of police. The words or other form of expression must incite or tend to or be intended at inciting acts of violence or public disorder as means of overthrowing the government or undermining the security of the State, the draft guidelines clarify.
It further clarifies that section 124-A can be applied wherever alleged words are directed and show dissatisfaction or disloyalty towards the executive government, and not merely to any individual or a class of individuals. "Words or pictures against politicians or public servants themselves do not fall in this category, unless they are representative of the Government," it adds.
On October 12, while confirming the state government's decision to drop the stringent charge of sedition against Trivedi, Khambatta had expressed need for the guidelines, and accordingly draft guidelines were submitted to the bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and justice Nitin Jamdar on Friday.