Let us start off by saying that nine of ten cases relating to sedition do stand the test of judicial scrutiny. The police knows this and the government does too. Then why does it continue being used? Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code which deals with sedition prescribes a lifer as punishment.
The Supreme Court in numerous judgments had made it amply clear if a sedition charge has to be filed for raising anti national slogans, then the police should also be able to ascertain that there was mob violence that was incited. This is a plain reading of what the Supreme Court said while interpreting Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code.
If one goes strictly by the law, then raising of anti national slogans does not lead to sedition. On the other hand one cannot be a mute spectator if a bunch of people raise anti national slogans.
There has to be a stop to it. Take the case of the JNU incident. It was a protest against the hanging of Afzal Guru which has been termed as a judicial killing. It does amount to contempt of court because the judgment of the Supreme Court is being questioned.
It acts as a deterrent
Several investigating officials that OneIndia spoke with say that sedition charges normally do not stand judicial scrutiny. However it has become a tool for investigators to use it as a deterrent. Normally after the filing of every sedition charge especially against students, there is an uproar.
Former Research and Analysis Wing officer, Amar Bhushan says that it takes the toll out of a person being probed for sedition. The investigation itself is so long drawn and painful for the person facing the charge that he would think twice before raising anti national slogans unless he is a hardened criminal or one in the making.
In this context it would be interesting to look at the Meerut case. At a university in Meerut sedition charges were slapped on ten students in March 2014 for supporting the Pakistan team in a cricket match. There were pro Pakistan slogans that were raised by these students after that country beat India by a solitary run.
The slapping of sedition charges were heavily criticised and under pressure even withdrawn almost immediately. The investigations too faded out. However what was the impact of the charge being filed. There has been no sloganeering in favour of Pakistan since then.
In the month of February 2015, when a match was played between India and Pakistan, none of the students came out to watch the match.
The incident of March 2014 has long been forgotten now and the students have decided to move past it. Who wants trouble is what the students say. This was clearly an effect of the sedition charge that the police had filed. In the JNU the police hopes to achieve something similar.
While there will always be separatists who would want to raise the Afzal Guru bogey in the JNU or somewhere in the National Capital, many students may think twice before taking part in an event in the support of a man who was convicted by none other than the highest court of the land.
Students may think twice before playing into the hands of separatists who have a whole other agenda where the Afzal Guru issue is concerned.