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Criticising the country is not sedition, free speech implies right to offend: Law Commission

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Criticising the country is not sedition, free speech implies right to offend: Law Commission

It is time to rethink or even repeal the controversial provision of sedition, Section 124A, from the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Law Commission has said.

Dissent and criticism of the government or the country are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy and an “expression of frustration over the state of affairs cannot be treated as sedition,” the Law Commission has said.

The Law Commission report said that a person should not be charged with sedition for “merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the Government of the day”.

Just a couple of days earlier, the Supreme Court termed dissent as the “safety valve” of a democracy, while hearing a plea against arrests of Dalit and human rights activists and intellectuals over allegations of ‘conspiring against the State’, a move that reignited the public outcry over the Narendra Modi government’s practice of stamping out any criticism and going viciously after anyone who criticizes its policies and politics.

On August 28, human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navalakha and Varavara Rao were arrested during pan-India raids by the Pune police. While the police had initially claimed that the activists were being arrested for their role in planning the Elgar Parishad event at Bhima-Koregaon in Pune, Maharashtra on December 31 and inciting the clashes between Dalits and upper caste Marathas that broke out the following day, the cops later alleged that the activists were involved in a conspiracy against the Modi government and were also aiding Naxalites.

The activists and their comrades have rubbished these allegations and claimed that they are being hounded by the police at the behest of the BJP government in the state and the Modi regime at the centre for voicing opinions that challenge the political establishment and its claims on governance.

Underlining that “singing from the same book is not a benchmark of patriotism”, the Law Commission, headed by Justice (retired) B S Chauhan said in a consultation paper on sedition law (124A IPC) that the stringent sedition law should be invoked only in cases “where intention” behind the act is to “disrupt public order or to overthrow the Government with violence and illegal means”.

The Law Commission’s consultation paper on the sedition law, thus, comes at a critical juncture.

Sedition cases being slapped against anyone criticizing the Modi government, the Prime Minister or chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, particularly on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, has become the order of the day.

“The Commission hopes a healthy debate will take place among the legal luminaries, lawmakers, Government and non-Government agencies, academia, students and above all, the general public, on the above issues, so that a public-friendly amendment could be brought about,” the Commission has said in its paper.

Defending the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech and expression, the panel said: “In a democracy, singing from the same book is not a benchmark of patriotism. People should be at liberty to show their affection towards their country in their own way. For doing the same, one might indulge in constructive criticism or debates, pointing out the loopholes in the policy of the Government. Expressions used in such thoughts might be harsh and unpleasant to some, but that does not render the actions to be branded seditious. Section 124A should be invoked only in cases where the intention behind any act is to disrupt public order or to overthrow the Government with violence and illegal means.”

In an unambiguous endorsement of a citizen’s right to dissent, or even offend, the Law Commission has said: “For merely expressing a thought that is not in consonance with the policy of the Government of the day, a person should not be charged under the section. Expression of frustration over the state of affairs, for instance, calling India ‘no country for women’, or a country that is ‘racist’ for its obsession with skin colour as a marker of beauty are critiques that do not ‘threaten’ the idea of a nation. Berating the country, or a particular aspect of it, cannot and should not be treated as sedition.”

The consultation paper adds further: “If the country is not open to positive criticism, there lies little difference between the pre- and post-independence eras. Right to criticise one’s own history and the right to ‘offend’ are rights protected under free speech. While it is essential to protect national integrity, it should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech. Dissent and criticism are essential ingredients of a robust public debate on policy issues as part of vibrant democracy. Therefore, every restriction on free speech and expression must be carefully scrutinised to avoid unwarranted restrictions.”

The Commission has invited public opinion on the prospect of either redefining or doing away with Section 124A in the “largest democracy of the world, considering that right to free speech and expression is an essential ingredient of democracy.” Why should India retain sedition when the British, who introduced sedition to oppress Indians, have themselves abolished the law in their country, the Commission asked.

Sedition attracts imprisonment from three years to life.

Education

Maharashtra man overcomes 10 years of failure to pass class 10 exam

Krishna finally cleared his Class 10 exam and became a source of inspiration for the entire village and brought joy to his family. His achievement was celebrated along with drumbeats and a grand procession

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Maharashtra man overcomes 10 years of failure to pass class 10 exam

A Maharashtra man became an example of perseverance and determination after he cleared the Class 10 board examination after 10 unsuccessful attempts. Krishna Namdev Munde, from Beed city in Maharashtra, showed how unwavering perseverance in one’s efforts can take a person to success.

Krishna finally cleared his Class 10 exam and became a source of inspiration for the entire village and brought joy to his family. His achievement was celebrated along with drumbeats and a grand procession. Krishna, who had faced disappointment 10 times before, never let his failure waver his determination. He had been trying to pass the Class 10 exam since 2018 and Krishna’s efforts finally bore fruits this year which proves that with hard work, one can overcome any challenge.

Krishna’s father, Namdev Munde, told the media how the family supported him throughout his journey and said his son has passed after 10 attempts in 5 years. But he kept submitting the fees, as he wanted to give him every opportunity.

Krishna is a student of Ratneshwar School in Parli taluka and had previously failed in History subject. But, this year, he passed in all his subjects. His accomplishment signifies a personal victory and proves the power of perseverance and the significance of never abandoning one’s aspirations. As soon as the Maharashtra board Class 10 result 2024 was announced, Krishna’s father took out a procession and villagers joined in with drums and even carried Krishna on their shoulders.

The SSC Results for class 10 were announced for Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) on Monday, with 95.81% of the students clearing the exam. Girl students outshone boys, scoring 2.56 % higher than them. In 2023, girls secured a pass percentage of 95.87 %, while boys achieved a pass percentage of 92.05%. Krishna’s story is shining example of perseverance and teaches that one should not give up on his dreams until he achieves them.

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India News

Monsoon lands two days early in Kerala, the Northeast

With this early monsoon, above-normal rainfall expected from June to September.

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Monsoon lands two days early in Kerala, the Northeast

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has confirmed the early onset of the monsoon over Kerala and northeast India, marking the commencement of the rainy season. This year, the monsoon arrived two days ahead of schedule, heralding above-normal rainfall expected from June to September. The IMD meticulously considered various parameters before officially declaring the onset of the monsoon.

The IMD’s announcement on Thursday signified the initiation of the four-month-long rainy season across the country. The simultaneous arrival of the monsoon over Kerala and Northeast India deviated from its typical schedule, reaching the mainland two days earlier than the customary date of onset over Kerala, usually observed on June 1st. This early arrival echoes a similar occurrence seven years ago, precisely on May 30, 2017.

The early onset of the monsoon carries significant implications for various sectors, including agriculture, water resource management, and public infrastructure. Farmers in Kerala and Northeast India can anticipate favorable conditions for crop cultivation, with the timely arrival of rainfall boosting agricultural output. Nonetheless, authorities must also remain vigilant against potential challenges such as flooding and landslides, which often accompany heavy monsoon rains.

Furthermore, the IMD’s announcement enables stakeholders to undertake necessary preparations and precautions to mitigate the impact of the monsoon season. Adequate infrastructure maintenance, disaster management strategies, and community awareness programs are essential components of ensuring resilience against the monsoon’s effects.

The early arrival of the monsoon in Kerala and Northeast India signifies the onset of the rainy season, bringing both opportunities and challenges for the region. As the country embraces the forthcoming months of abundant rainfall, coordinated efforts across sectors are imperative to harness the benefits of the monsoon while safeguarding against its potential adversities.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Akhilesh Yadav says people are so angry they will make it difficult for BJP to win 140 seats

Yadav accused the BJP of neglecting farmers and waiving loans of only industrialists and promised that the loans of farmers will be waived after the INDIA bloc government is formed.

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Akhilesh Yadav says people are so angry they will make it difficult for BJP to win 140 seats

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday said it would be difficult for the BJP to win even 140 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Yadav took a jibe over the NDA’s slogan of Abki baar 400 paar, and said, they have forgotten their slogan of crossing 400 Lok Sabha seats. He added the people are so angry that they will make it difficult for the BJP to win even 140 seats.

The SP leader attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he has started stumbling due to anxiety. He accused the BJP of neglecting farmers and waiving loans of only industrialists and promised that the loans of farmers will be waived after the INDIA bloc government is formed. Akhiliesh Yadav was addressing a joint rally in support of Congress candidate from Maharajganj, Virendra Chaudhary.

The former Uttar Pradesh CM accused the central government of deliberately leaking recruitment exam papers so that the youth remains unemployed and in order to snatch reservation. Yadav promised the people that the opposition parties will provide jobs and demolish the Agniveer scheme of recruitment in the Indian army after the INDIA alliance government is formed.

He pointed that BJP is putting up big tents for their events but people are not coming. He further added the BJP is making the government officials sit in the election rallies in plain clothes to fill the tents. Lok Sabha elections are going to take place in Maharajganj on June 1.

Earlier the SP leader told the media that they have seen massive voting in favour of SP and INDIA bloc in the sixth phase. People have extended unprecedented support to them and it seemed that the NDA will be left much behind. He said earlier he used to say that the INDIA Bloc are ahead in 79 seats and the fight is only 1 seat. But now it seems that they are ahead on all 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh.

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