New Delhi: Union minister Venkaiah Naidu has hinted that raising slogans of azadi (freedom) will be punished under the contentious sedition law that allows government to arrest anyone for “treason”.
“If raising azadi slogans is not treason then I don’t know what is,” Naidu said in an interview with India Today.
When pointed out that the Supreme Court, in several judgments, has protected the rights of citizens to criticise their government, as long as there’s no incitement to violence, Naidu said that’s usually the next step.
“The slogan of azaadi is always followed by violence. These people, whether in Bastar or Jammu and Kashmir, always take to the gun. That is the next course. Their slogans will be followed by violence,” he said.
The Law Ministry and the Home Ministry, after proper consultation, will bring a tougher law to act preemptively against those who raise slogans of freedom.
“The unity and integrity of the people is paramount,” Naidu said.
While the minister said he supported discourse at colleges, he refused to brook any argument on the territorial integrity of India.
Left leader Sitaram Yechury has condemned the government’s attempt at bringing back a debate on patriotism. “This is pseudo-nationalistic jingoism. Who are they to brand people anti-India or not?”
In 1962, in a landmark judgment delivered in the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC but subject to the condition that it not be misused.
“Words, deeds or writings constituted an offence under s. 124A only when they had the intention or tendency to disturb public tranquility, to create public disturbance or to promote disorder”.
When the issue came up again after the JNU protests in 2016, the SC again told authorities to follow the Kedar Nath case.