India urged to repeal sedition law

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NEW YORK - The Indian parliament should repeal the colonial-era sedition law which it said was employed to silence peaceful political dissent, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

And the Indian government should drop sedition cases against prominent activists such as Binayak Sen, Arundhati Roy and others, the US-based body said.

In two recent cases, in New Delhi and Chhattisgarh, the authorities have pursued sedition charges against activists, despite a long-standing Supreme Court ruling that prosecution under the sedition law requires incitement to violence, which was not alleged in either case.

“Using sedition laws to silence peaceful criticism is the hallmark of an oppressive government,” said Human Rights Watch.

“The Supreme Court has long recognized that the sedition law cannot be used for this purpose, and India’s parliament should amend or repeal the law to reflect this.”

On Dec 24, a court sentenced Binayak Sen, a critic of the Chhattisgarh government’s counter-insurgency policies against Maoist rebels, to life in prison for sedition.

The judge found no evidence that Sen was a member of any outlawed Maoist group or that he was involved in violence against the state. Police had arrested Sen in May 2007, accusing him of carrying messages from a jailed Maoist ideologue.

In New Delhi, a magistrate directed the police in November 2010 to investigate sedition charges against writer and columnist Arundhati Roy even though the government had decided against filing such charges.

The allegations against Roy and five others stemmed from speeches they made Oct 21 in New Delhi supporting Kashmiri

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