Demonstrators at Red Fort during the farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day, in New Delhi. (HT Photo)
Demonstrators at Red Fort during the farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day, in New Delhi. (HT Photo)

Sedition can’t be used to quieten disquiet: Delhi court observes

Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana made the observation while granting bail to Devi Lal Burdak and Swaroop Ram. The two were arrested by the Delhi Police for alleged sedition and circulating rumours by posting videos on social media.
By Richa banka
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 06:06 AM IST

A Delhi court has said that sedition charges should not be invoked to quieten disquiet under the pretence of muzzling miscreants, making the observations while granting bail to two people arrested in connection with the tractor rally violence during farmers’ protest on this year’s Republic Day.

Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana made the observation while granting bail to Devi Lal Burdak and Swaroop Ram. The two were arrested by the Delhi Police for alleged sedition and circulating rumours by posting videos on social media.

“The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the state to maintain peace and order in the society. However, it cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants,” the judge said on Monday. The court said the invocation of Section 124 A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code was a “seriously debatable issue” in the case.

Read more: Karnataka police yet to file charge-sheets in 3 sedition cases filed a year ago

Burdak and Ram, both aged 25, were booked under sections 124A (sedition), 505 (spreading rumors), 468 (forgery) and 471 (fraud) of the IPC. While Ram, a labourer, was arrested from Mahisagar in Gujarat, Burdak was arrested from Nagaur in Rajasthan. The police alleged that both the accused circulated a video on social media that showed a senior police official briefing other personnel during the farmers’ protest. It alleged that though it was an old video of September 2020, it was being projected through social media posts as being connected with the farmers’ agitation and the violence son January 26 in an effort to project that there was unrest within the police forces.

“In the recent violence that occurred on Jan 26 at Red Fort, near ITO and other areas in Delhi, a large number of police personnel were injured and these posts have been released on social media at a strategic time deliberately in an attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law and with an intent to cause any officer or soldier in the Armed Forces to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such,” the police told the court.

Read more: Kangana Ranaut seeks quashing of FIR for sedition, tells court her tweets did not incite violence

The investigating agency also said that the accused circulated fake videos and also charged them for forgery. The court, however, rejected both the contentions and said that the invocation of sedition in this case was a “debatable issue”.

“Evidently, law proscribes any act which has a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence. In the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence or any allusion or oblique remark or even any hint towards this objective, attributable to the accused, I suspect that Section 124 A IPC can be validly invoked against the accused,” the court said.

It also said that “it had personally seen the video in the courtroom where evidently a senior police officer of Delhi Police is raising slogans, in a very agitated tone, and a group of Delhi Police personnel are seen standing beside him. The background voices also suggest a very charged up atmosphere”.

Read more: JNU sedition case: Delhi court takes cognisance of chargesheet against Kanhaiya Kumar, others

The judge also rejected the charges of forgery and said that the video in question was not created by the accused and was merely forwarded by them.

“Consequently, since the prosecution has failed to point out the creation of any false document in the instant case, I fail to understand as to how come the offence u/s 468/471 IPC (forgery) can be invoked in the instant case,” the judge said.

Advocate Surender Chaudhary, the counsel representing the accused, said that it was complete injustice on the part of the police to arrest the two young men who had no connection with the farmers’ protest. He said that his clients had not even visited the Red Fort or any of the protesting sites and they were arrested from their homes.

“This is complete travesty of justice. The career of the young boys is at stake now. This is also suppressing the right to protest envisaged under the Indian Constitution,” he said. Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra said sedition has a high benchmark and the SC has said that unless there is an incitement to violence, the act will not constitute sedition.

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