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Depressive environment and cruel government – by Muhammad Aamir Hussaini

 

Manzoor Pashteen of PTM not first person in the history who is facing sedition trial under 124A but before him hundreds of thousands dissenting voices faced sedition trials under 124A.

But no doubt now it has become modus operandi of Police in all areas of Pakistan to register FIRs against dissenting voices under section 124A(Although there some sections in parts VA titled with Criminal Conspiracy and VI titled with OF OFFENSES AGAINST THE STATE, under those sections often FIRs against dissenting voices are being registered(particularly against prominent activists in rights movements in Pakistan).

FIRs under 124A Sedition charges against dissenting voices are not new phenomenon in political history of Indo-Pak.

First 124A was introduced by Thomas Babington Macaulay in a draft of Penal Code of 1837 but excluded from final draft. in 1867. It was added in Penal Code of 1870 on the suggestion of James Fitzjames Stephen, a English Lawyer,Judge and writer.

First implication of the said section:

“Due to increasing Wahhabi activities, and fearing that Muslim preachers would incite religious war in the Indian subcontinent, the Raj introduced this section under the title “Exciting disaffection”.

( Bhatia, Gautam (2016). Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Free Speech under the Indian Constitution. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199089529.)

Stephen’s version of 1870 was amended to a large extent through IPC Amendment Act of 1898. The current section stands very much similar to this 1898’s section.

When National Independence Struggle in Colonial India grew then British Raj started to book political workers and leaders under this Section 124A. Hundreds of thousands cases against political workers, authors, writers, students, lawyers, poets, trade unionists etc were registered in Police stations of Colonial India.

Lokmaniya Tilak/Balgangadhar Tilk, Father of Indian Nationalist Independence Movement ,a teacher by profession in 1897 was nominated in a FIR under 124A. He faced sedition trial under 124A. That was famous trial and Jinnah founder of Pakistan was his Lawyer, who was very close friend of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Gandhi also was implicated under 124A and arrested and he also had faced sedition trial in 1922. Ali Brothers also faced sedition trial under 124A.

When Partitioned occurred ,two countries came in to being then hope was that now this section would be removed from Penal Codes of both countries but this hope faded away very soon in both countries.

Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Pakistan Penal Code(PPC) have section 124A and in both codes we find similar definition but with some explanations:

1*[124A. Sedition.–Whoever by words, either spoken or written,

or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or

attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, 2***the Government established by law 3*[India], a 4***shall be punished with 5*[imprisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. (Indian Penal Code)

124-A Sedition:

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Federal or Provincial Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Some Historical Verdicts given by Indian Courts against 124A:

“In 1951, the Punjab High Court ruled Section 124A to be unconstitutional. A similar ruling was passed in 1959 by the Allahabad High Court, which also concluded that it struck at the very root of free speech. The Government of India appealed to the Supreme Court of India, which in 1962 ruled that speeches against the government or political parties was not illegal, while upholding it as applicable to separatism by persuasion or force; this pronouncement had the effect of diluting the law.”

(“Anti-sedition law needs the bin”. Economic Times. 15 January 2019.)

(Prakash, Satya. “To repeal or not: Nehruvian dilemma on sedition law”. 10 September 2018)

In India all democratic forces admit that 124A is big hindrance in Free Speech and against basic human rights but no ruling party dared to repeal it from IPC.

In Pakistan when PPP came in power in 2008 and it started to work for 18th Amendment in 1973 Constitution and all parties in the Parliament supported this then not a single parliamentarian had given the suggestion of repealing this section from PPC.

Now we are living in such environment where every dissenting voice is facing sedition charge under 124A.

To point out any exploitation, any extra-judicial killing, any enforced disappearance, to raise your voice against powerful land-grabbers, to point out plight of internally displaced people from their areas in the name of military operation or displacement in the name of allocation of land for families of Martyrs in military and construction of modern lavish housing schemes for rich people, to oppose demolition of hundreds years old Goths of Sindhi , Baluch in Karachi or to raise the voice against cutting of forests and making there colonies for wealthier classes and to raise your voices over killing of innocent children or disability permanently due to landmines in war-torn areas have become act of sedition and be ready to face sedition trial under 124A.

We already are seeing that dissenting voices being trialed under 7ATA, sections of Anti-Cyber Crimes Act, sections of Criminal Conspiracies and of Offenses Against the State. Who are those people facing such trials?

Either they are activists of rights movements, or they are directly victims of military operations in FATA or Baluchistan, or they are victims of big mega development projects or they are labor on strikes in corporate sector demanding permanent contract against their daily waged job positions or they are political workers or human rights activists critiques of violations of human rights made by security forces or intelligence agencies during operations.

Even lawyers are not safe, who fight the cases on behalf of victims of thugs sitting in the institutions. Such Journalists face the consequences who dare to file reports about thugs sittings in state institutions and violating the laws and do not impose self-censorship on themselves or after refusal from their Media owners they reveal the facts through FB , Twitter or You Tube Channels.

Sensitive minds are living in very depressing situation in Pakistan. Here government seems puppet playing in apparently unseen hands and its role is so cruel towards masses.