Delhi Court: Sedition Laws Can’t Be Used to “Quieten the Disquiet,” in Bail Hearing for Pro‑Farmers Protest Cases
A Delhi Sessions Court granted bail to two men accused of sedition, statements conducing to public mischief, forgery, and using forged documents for sharing a Facebook post that spread pro-farmer’s protest misinformation.
The accused had shared a video that alleged a rebellion and mass resignation within the Delhi police. However, the video was doctored footage of a regular police briefing.
The court observed, “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 pretense of muzzling the miscreants.” The court stated that the accused had spread rumors, at worst. The court found no evidence of attempts to incite disorder to public peace.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana then went on to grant bail to the accused, as they had only shared the posts, not created them. The defense argued that the “material alleged against the accused is innocuous in nature and it is in fact an expression of emotions uttered in disagreement with government policies. It is further submitted that no offence of sedition or forgery is made out in the instant case.”
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Allegations of sedition and ‘anti-national’ behavior and related arrests have increased over the past few years. While the individuals before the court spread fake news in attempts to rally dissent, more legitimate means of protest have been treated similarly by the government and law enforcement — suggesting it’s the act of protest being prosecuted, not the falsity of claims. Several activists and academics who have critiqued the State have been arrested recently, most notably climate activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested and charged with sedition for creating and sharing an activist toolkit that shares basic information about the farmer’s protest.
Spreading fake news online is a problem, but not a crime. And as ex-Supreme Court Justice Deepak Gupta has said, “Every citizen of this country has a right to oppose the government so long as the opposition is peaceful.”