SRINAGAR: International human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Saturday said that charging the Kashmiri man with sedition for sharing ‘anti-India’ posts on Facebook is an “absurd use of an archaic law to curb the freedom of expression”.
The statement followed the arrest of one Tausiq Ahmed from a railway station in Madhya Pradesh on the basis of a complaint lodged in Durg, Chhattisgarh.
In its statement issued here, Amnesty International India said that the superintendent of police, Durg, has stated that an FIR had been registered against Ahmed under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which defines sedition as any act or attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or…excite disaffection towards the government.”
“His wall was filled with anti-India messages questioning the integrity of the country and insulting the national flag,” the rights body quoted the officer as saying.
The complainant who filed the FIR said to Amnesty International, India: “Many youth from our town approached us about Tausiq’s multiple posts, including one that said, ‘Get out from Kashmir’, and one in which he depicted India’s flag as a rat. It was a question of security and that’s why I think criminal investigation is necessary.”
The complainant said that he was a member of a Hindu nationalist organisation, which is linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
“The right to freedom of expression extends to speech that may be considered offensive by some,” Arijit Sen, Programmes Manager at Amnesty International India, said in the statement. “A criminal case for such conduct is not justified.”
Indian courts, as per Amnesty, have ruled that expression can be restricted on grounds of public order only when it involves incitement to imminent violence or disorder.
In 2015, it said, India’s Supreme Court struck down section 66A of the Information Technology Act, a provision which placed “vague restrictions” on online expression, observing: ‘mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of (the right to freedom of expression)”.
The court stated that such advocacy could be restricted only when it “reaches the level of incitement”, it said.
“Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, the sedition law continues to be used to criminalise free speech. The Chhattisgarh government must immediately release Tausiq Ahmed and drop all charges against him, and take steps to repeal section 124A,” said Arijit Sen.