New Delhi: At a time when the debate over misuse of the sedition law in India is at its peak, a Delhi court Tuesday granted bail to two men charged with sedition over an allegedly fake Facebook video related to the farmers’ agitation, asserting that the law cannot be used to “quieten the disquiet”.
In doing so, additional sessions judge Dharmendra Rana observed in the two almost identical orders: “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 court referred to the Supreme Court verdict in Kedar Nath Singh case and asserted that since there was no incitement to disturbance of public peace in this case, it did not think that sedition can be invoked.
It explained: “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 applicant accused… In my considered opinion, on a plain reading of the tagline attributed to the applicant/accused, invocation of Section 124 A IPC is a seriously debatable issue.”
Fake Facebook video
The court was hearing applications filed by two accused — Devilal Burdak and Swaroop Ram. Burdak had been in judicial custody since 4 February; Ram since the next day. They were both accused in the same FIR under Indian Penal Code Sections 124A (sedition), 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating) and 471 (using a forged document or electronic record as genuine).
The police had alleged that they posted a fake video on their Facebook page. In Burdak’s case, they said he posted the video with the tagline: “Delhi Police mein bagawat, 200 policekarmiyon ne diya samuhik istifa (There is a rebellion in Delhi Police and around 200 police officials have resigned en masse).”
But the video, the prosecution told the court, was related to an incident wherein some persons in “khaki”, colloquial for uniforms (in this case Home Guards) were voicing their grievances with the Jharkhand government.
Ram allegedly posted another video with a similar tagline and with additional words like “Jai Jawaan Jai Kisan” and “# I_Support_ Rakesh_ Tikait_ Challenge”. But the police claimed that the video pertained to an “incident wherein a senior officer of Delhi Police was briefing police personnel at a protest site and also encouraging them to tackle the situation properly”.
In the order granting bail to Ram, judge Rana said he watched the video in the courtroom “wherein 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 court noted that according to the investigating officer, Ram is not the author of the post, but had merely forwarded it. Thus, it granted bail to both Burdak and Ram, expressing apprehension over the suitability of invoking offences of sedition and forgery in this case.
The court said that while the allegation against the two for spreading rumours “seems to bear force”, that offence is bailable.