Last week, Kerala Police arrested a college student on charges of sedition, following complaints filed against him for allegedly changing some of the words of an undisclosed patriotic song with abuses in a Facebook post, reports TheNewsMinute.
The report says he was arrested on charges of sedition (under IPC 124A), violation of section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, and the Prevention of Insults of National Honour Act, 1971. The Thampanoor police told the publication that the case was being investigated by the cyber police cell and the sedition charges were included on the basis of the Facebook post.
Following this arrest, several student groups are apparently organizing protests in several districts across Kerala and a Facebook page called ‘Justice for Salman‘ has been setup.
Several prominent citizens including Frontline Associate Editor Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, various film makers, journalists, book authors, university professors and activists across the country have also released a joint statement questioning the nature of the arrest and lack of clarity regarding his arrest.
The group mentions that the sedition charges on the student is a gross over stretching of the sedition act and also claimed that an opposing faction is conducting a hate campaign against the student Salman on Facebook. The group also noted that Salman has been part of several human rights campaigns in the past. Read the full statement here.
Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s arrest
It’s worth noting that Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was also arrested on similar charges in September 2012, for displaying allegedly offensive cartoons at a Jan Lokpal agitation in Mumbai in December 2011, and on his website, CartoonsagainstCorruption.com.
The website was reportedly suspended by the web hosting provider, BigRock on orders of the Mumbai Police without a legal notice or court order, following which he moved all his cartoons to his Blogger-based blog. He was released from the jail three days later, as indicated by a Times Of India report.
Police warns users against sharing objectionable content
Over the past year or so, police arrests and warnings over sharing or even “liking” objectionable content on the Internet has been on the rise. In June this year, we witnessed two incidents of arrest: an MBA student was arrested for allegedly sending an “offensive message” on WhatsApp while another person in Mumbai was arrested for posting on the Goa+ Facebook Group, that if elected to power, Modi would unleash a ‘holocaust’.
Earlier this month, the Karnataka police issued warnings to citizens of Belgaum in North Karnataka informing them that uploading, modifying, resending and liking malicious or misleading images, videos and messages through any medium with an intention of hurting religious sentiments knowingly or unknowingly is a punishable offence under sections 66A of the Information Technology Act and 153A, 295 of the Indian Penal Code.
The Karnataka Government also passed a legislature, that allows the authorities to arrest a person even before he/she has committed an offence under the IT Act (Read: You could be labelled a ‘goonda’ in the eyes of the State – Bangalore Mirror).
In June this year, Mumbai Police had also issued a similar warning to citizens directing them to not ‘like’ objectionable posts on Facebook. Mumbai Police told that the people would be booked under section 66A of the IT Act and section 295A of Indian Penal Code, which deals with ‘hurting religious sentiments’, in such cases.
What these arrests or warnings will do is it will reduce the propensity of people to voice criticism and dissent and make fun of developments in a public forum.
Also read: Damaging Dissent In India
Updates: Typo in a story fixed.