Camera: Aishwarya Iyer
The news that a Muzaffarpur court has ordered the police to lodge an FIR against several public figures – including historian Ramachandra Guha and filmmakers like Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap and Shyam Benegal – over an open letter they wrote to PM Narendra Modi regarding lynchings, has created a massive controversy.
What makes this seeming violation of the right to free speech even more concerning is that the FIR is under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code: The dreaded offence of sedition.
But how can a letter expressing concern over lynchings and the weaponisation of terms like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ become a criminal offence, and that too, of sedition?
We explain why this runs contrary to the Supreme Court’s own jurisprudence – including in the Kedar Nath case which upheld the constitutionality of sedition which says sedition can only be attracted in a case of incitement to imminent violence or public disorder.