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India's laws are being misused to threaten activists

Mahtab Alam
Filed on February 17, 2020 | Last updated on February 17, 2020 at 08.18 pm

The recent round of arrests in India and prolonged detention of several political leaders and activists under the law against sedition, the National Security Act (NSA), the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) have once again put the spotlight on these extraordinary laws.

For example, the law against sedition, which Mahatma Gandhi described as the "prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen", was originally designed to curb the freedom of expression and speech during the colonial era. Even in independent and democratic India, it has been used by political dispensations for the same purpose. Despite the constant demand for striking it off the law books and mounting evidence of its misuse over the years, no government has shown any willingness to touch it These cases have raised several questions about the use and misuse of these laws over the years. One wonders why despite their rampant misuse, nothing has been done so far.

The problem, however, does not stop at misuse. These extraordinary laws are problematic in their very design. They are written to be anti-people and to curb any form of dissent. A mere amendment would, therefore, not suffice. If one were to stop their misuse entirely, nothing short of striking them down from the law books would be acceptable.

These laws also serve another purpose - they have a chilling effect on other activists and ordinary people. The classic case of this is a recent example of over 50 people being charged with sedition for just raising slogans in support of Sharjeel Imam and demanding his release.

- Thewire.in


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