Recently, Director Vivek Agnihotri wrote about “Rumour Landmines” who used social media to spread untruths. The piece was in context of the “Naresh Kanodia heading Oscar Jury” rumour which we had written about. And now, the “Rumour landmines” were at it again. This time it was an alleged “undemocratic” order issued by Fadnavis led Maharashtra Government, which would lead the country to being another “North Korea”. So first let us meet the “rumour landmines”:
All citizens who believe in constitution must oppose @Dev_Fadnavis govt’s new interpretation of Sec 124A. It’s clearly anti democratic.
— nikhil wagle (@waglenikhil) September 4, 2015
Breaking Now: Maharashtra govt issues draconian diktat. ‘Sedition charges for criticising state, central govt.’
— NewsX (@NewsX) September 4, 2015
Another highly misleading report was this one on India Today. So what did Maharashtra Government actually do? The Government’s circular (in Marathi) can be accessed here, The English version of the guidelines can be found at the bottom of the same file. We would like to present a brief summary of the same.
Firstly, the Government referred to the sedition case which was filed against Aseem Trivedi for his cartoons, in 2011. It noted that after legal advice from the Advocate General, charges of sedition were dropped against Trivedi.
Next the Government said that in order to prevent such actions by police in the future, some guidelines were being issued to the cops now, which they should keep in mind while invoking section 124 A i.e. Sedition. The guidelines were:
1. In order to slap Sedition charges, words, signs etc must bring the state/Central government into hatred/contempt/disaffection AND must be with the intention of inciting violence/creating public disorder
2. Words or signs against politicians or public servants will be considered seditious only if the words or signs show the politicians and public servants as representatives of the Government.
3. Anything expressing disapproval of government and criticising government seeking a change via lawful means will not be seen as seditious.
4. Just because something is disgusting or vulgar it cannot be seditious
5. Before applying any charges of sedition, a written opinion giving reasons, must be obtained from the district law officer. Further, within 2 weeks, a written opinion must be taken from the Government Public Prosecutor.
The circular further said that the above guidelines should not be seen as all-encompassing and specific facts of the matter must be looked into before using section 124 A.
So in short, the Government tried to remove ambiguity in application of Sec 124 A, and gave clear guidelines which said that acts which incite violence, are not looking for legal means, are targetted at Government representatives, can be considered seditious, but only after a written opinion from district law officer has been taken. Sounds fair right?
Certain media reports, like this one, carried news very similar to the above translation. Yet “Rumour landmines” latched onto some obscure media reports or some ill-thought translation by some alleged journalist. No one bothered mentioning that the guidelines clearly stated that the cops must take a written opinion from a legal officer before enforcing such sections. No one bothered understanding that it was clearly specified that something can be seditious only if it incites violence or uses illegal means.
So what is it that makes some “journalists” blindly believe anything which can be said to be being anti a section of the Political class? Is this incompetence? Or something more?