Sedition charges against media uncalled for: Justice Sachar

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Ahmedabad, Jun 23 (UNI) Justice Rajendra Sachar has described the sedition charge filed against the Times of India by City Police Commissioner O P Mathur as a colonial legacy and said its use by state machinery amounted to gross insult of basic tenets of freedom of expression.

Speaking at the Gujarat State Freedom of Expression Conference here last evening, Justice Sachar said, ''Without a free press, there will be no functional democracy. There is a court of law and individuals have the right to file defamation suits but calling for sedition charges against journalists and media are uncalled for.'' The Times of India's city edition had carried a series of features, exposing the close nexus between the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner O P Mathur with former don of the city Abdul Latif.

Mr Mathur has filed a case under section 124 (A) and other sections of Indian Penal Code against the daily's scribes.

The conference was jointly organised by the PUCL, Movement for Secular Democracy, J P Centenary Committee, PRASANT, Nirikhak, Nayamarg, Bhoomi Putra and Jal Seva.

Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar said there was an 'undeclared emergency' in the country.

Recalling the black days of emergency, he said, ''It was astonishing to see L K Advani, the then member of Jan Sangha, vociferously opposing the gagging of media during emergency era.

Now the BJP, representative of the same Jan Sangha, has been widely involved in curbing the voice of press.'' Kannaviram, president of the PUCL, condemned the sedition charge against the press and cited the instance of a case filed against Ashish Nandy for his article dealing with the abuse of power by the Gujarat government and the silence maintained by the middle class in the state which, he termed, as ''undemocratic and assault on freedom of expression''.

Chunibhai Vaidya, president of the conference and noted Sarvodaya leader, said how in the name of the development and SEZ, the lands had been acquired by the capitalists in various areas of the state.

He expressed deep concern over how the voiceless villagers were ignored and left at the mercy of the industrialists in towns like Jamnagar and Mundra of Kutch.

He gave a clarion call to the people to fight against the land-grabbing capitalists and stand united with the helpless villagers.

A delegation of people, who attended the conference, will meet Gujarat Governor on June 24 in this regard.

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