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If Sedition goes, so must criminalising provisions of UAPA: CCG

The group of former Civil Servants issue detailed analysis in an Open Statement on the Sedition Provision in the Indian Penal Code

Sabrangindia 13 Jun 2022

sedition law

The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), a formidable group of former Indian civil servants has urged the Supreme Court to judicially determine section 124A (Sedition) as unconstitutional and stroke it down.

In a detailed statement issued on June 12, it has also urged that provisions of other draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), sections 2(1) (o) (iii) and 13 (1) need to also be similarly struck down. In this detailed analysis of criminalising provisions, the group has also pointed out that Indian penal Code (IPC) sections 153 (a) and (b) are typically and often mis-interpreted and used to penalise free speech.

In this context, the Constitutional Conduct Group has put out an open statement on sedition law and the Supreme Court, calling for a basic structure principle to safeguard citizens’ rights: “Given that no democracy can exist without freedom of speech and expression, including the right to promote opinions unfavourable to the government, the Supreme Court should use this opportunity to declare an overarching ‘basic structure principle’ of the Constitution protecting freedom of speech and expression including the reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2), so that government interference with individual freedom of speech and expression can be prevented.”  Over 108 former civil servants are signatories to this.

The text of the statement is reproduced here:

“We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. Our group has no affiliation with any political party, and we, as its members, believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.

“On May 11, 2022, a chorus of appreciation greeted the Supreme Court’s interim orders on a batch of cases which had challenged the constitutionality of the sedition provision contained in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  The Supreme Court’s order was an interim one, viz. to keep in abeyance this section and all related pending trials, appeals and proceedings until further orders.  While we would, like others, wish to applaud this decision of the Supreme Court, we feel that, at present, it deserves only a muted cheer.

“The Supreme Court’s order, inasmuch as it results in immediate relief against arrest, investigation or under-trial detention under Section 124A, is certainly laudable (provided it does not adversely affect the persons already charged). Not so laudable is the impression it gives that the suspension is a response to the union government’s statement that it is reviewing Section 124A and considering its revision and reform. Review and revision by the executive cannot be a substitute for judicial determination of the constitutional limits of the power of the executive to restrict freedom of speech and expression. It is important for the Supreme Court not to get sidetracked by the executive and instead to answer the fundamental issue raised by the petitioners, viz. is Section 124A of the IPC constitutionally valid?

“Section 124A of the IPC is certainly a strange provision to have in a democracy. It criminalizes the feelings of dislike, contempt and disaffection towards “the government established by law in India”, even where such feelings are not linked to any violent, illegal or criminal act.  Disaffection and contempt for the government of the day are feelings through which democratic republics are born.  Such feelings are considered criminal only in autocracies. Where the government of the day can be, and is, changed through the electoral process, it can surely not be a criminal offence for any citizen to merely harbour and express feelings of disaffection, etc. towards the government.

“In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence.” Yet this disaffection is what Section 124A treats as criminal. Sixty years ago, in Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld Section 124A IPC, but qualified their decision as follows:

. . . we propose to limit [the] operation [of Section 124A] only to such activities …. involving incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace.

“This limiting of Section 124A to activities which involve incitement to violence or public disorder has, however, been by and large ignored in practice by the police and by the courts. As against the thousands of cases charged by the police under Section 124A and similar draconian provisions/laws, the low rate of conviction casts serious doubt about the genuineness of claims made during investigation and prosecution. It shows that the real purpose of such laws is to provide autocratic rulers a powerful weapon to suppress their rivals and control public opinion.

“However, whether or not Section 124A is finally deleted or altered, it will make little difference to the common citizen insofar as freedom of speech and expression as spelt out in Article 19(1) of the Constitution is concerned. This is because, apart from Section 124A of the IPC, there are several other provisions in the IPC and other Acts which shackle this fundamental right of citizens and leave them open to arbitrary arrest and prosecution by the government. The only way that the citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression can be protected is if the Supreme Court examines Article 19 under the “basic structure of the Constitution” principle with reference to all existing laws and provisions that put curbs on this freedom.

“The armoury of arbitrary weapons used to suppress dissent and opposition and control the free formation of public opinion has expanded over the years to include a number of offences similar to those under Section 124A. Prominent amongst these offences are Section 153A of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, etc.), Section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), Section 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and Section 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes). These provisions are today widely and routinely misused by the police and their political masters with the same objective as in the case of Section 124A.

“Over the years, slowly and surreptitiously, the substance of the offence of sedition has been “snuck” into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), defined more elaborately, and with more draconian consequences, than in Section 124A. Significantly, no political party is blameless in this regard and governments of all political complexions have been trampling upon human rights and the freedom of expression

“Section 13(1) of the UAPA states that “Whoever: (a) takes part in or commits, or (b) advocates, abets, advises or incites the commission of, any unlawful activity….” shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years. “Unlawful activity” as defined under Section 2(1)(o)(iii) of the UAPA is very similar to the definition of sedition contained in Sec 124A IPC.

“If Section 124A of the IPC is held by the court to be unconstitutional, because speech and expression that merely create disaffection are protected (and not prohibited) under Article 19(1), Section 2(1)(o)(iii) of the UAPA will also need to be amended to delete elements imported from Section 124A, viz. the criminalization of speech and expression which is not an integral part of any violent, illegal, criminal act. Deletion of one, while retaining the other, would be irrational.

“Deleting Section 124A from the IPC, while retaining criminalization of “unlawful activities” under the UAPA, will give substantial political advantage to the union government and the party in power at the national level. Currently, state governments are free to prosecute persons for offences under the IPC, including for sedition under Section 124A.  No permission of the union government is required.   States ruled by political parties other than that at the national level sometimes use Section 124A to prosecute supporters of the national ruling party for sedition (as recently happened in Maharashtra). The ruling party at the union level is powerless to prevent such prosecution. The UAPA, on the other hand, vests no powers with the state governments. It provides that no court shall take cognizance of any offence of unlawful activity without the previous sanction of the Central Government.   Deleting Section 124A of the IPC will mean that the power to prosecute those who promote unfavourable opinions against the government will rest solely with the union government. This provides a major incentive for the union government to delete Section 124A under the pretext of protecting human rights while in reality strengthening its ability to suppress liberty in an even more draconian manner.

“Given that no democracy can exist without freedom of speech and expression, including the right to promote opinions unfavourable to the government, the Supreme Court should use this opportunity to declare an overarching ‘basic structure principle’ of the Constitution protecting freedom of speech and expression including the reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2), so that government interference with individual freedom of speech and expression can be prevented. In doing so, the Court should hew to the principle that any permissible restriction on speech and expression must be only against speech or expression that is likely to result in imminent violence or restricts the freedom of speech and expression of others.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

The 108-strong list of the signatories of the Constitutional Conduct Group are listed below:

1.

Anita Agnihotri

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI

2.

S.P. Ambrose

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI

3.

Anand Arni

RAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

4.

J.L. Bajaj

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Administrative Reforms and Decentralisation Commission, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

5.

G. Balachandhran

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

6.

Vappala Balachandran

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

7.

Gopalan Balagopal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

8.

Chandrashekar Balakrishnan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

9.

Sushant Baliga

Engineering Services (Retd.)

Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI

10.

Rana Banerji

RAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

11.

T.K. Banerji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

12.

Sharad Behar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

13.

Aurobindo Behera

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha

14.

Madhu Bhaduri

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Portugal

15.

Pradip Bhattacharya

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal

16.

Meeran C Borwankar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI

 

17.

Ravi Budhiraja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI

18.

Sundar Burra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

19.

R. Chandramohan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

20.

K.M. Chandrasekhar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Cabinet Secretary, GoI

21.

Rachel Chatterjee

IAS (Retd.)

Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

22.

Gurjit Singh Cheema

IAS (Retd.)

Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab

23.

F.T.R. Colaso

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

24.

Anna Dani

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

25.

Surjit K. Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand

26.

Vibha Puri Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

27.

P.R. Dasgupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

28.

Pradeep K. Deb

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI

29.

Nitin Desai

 

Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI

30.

M.G. Devasahayam

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

31.

A.S. Dulat

IPS (Retd.)

Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI

32.

K.P. Fabian

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Italy

33.

Arif Ghauri

IRS (Retd.)

Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)

34.

Gourisankar Ghosh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI

35.

Suresh K. Goel

IFS (Retd.)

Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI

36.

S.K. Guha

IAS (Retd.)

Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI

37.

H.S. Gujral

IFoS (Retd.)

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab

38.

Meena Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

39.

Ravi Vira Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

40.

Wajahat Habibullah

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner

41.

Deepa Hari

IRS (Resigned)

 

42.

Sajjad Hassan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur

43.

Siraj Hussain

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI

44.

Kamal Jaswal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

45.

Najeeb Jung

IAS (Retd.)

Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi

46.

Vinod C. Khanna

IFS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI

47.

Brijesh Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

48.

Ish Kumar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

49.

Sudhir Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal

50.

Subodh Lal

IPoS (Resigned)

Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI

51.

B.B. Mahajan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI

52.

P.M.S. Malik

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI

53.

Harsh Mander

IAS (Retd.)

Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

54.

Amitabh Mathur

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

55.

Lalit Mathur

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI

56.

Aditi Mehta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

57.

Sonalini Mirchandani

IFS (Resigned)

GoI

58.

Sunil Mitra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

59.

Noor Mohammad

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India

60.

Avinash Mohananey

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim

61.

Satya Narayan Mohanty

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

62.

Deb Mukharji

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

63.

Shiv Shankar Mukherjee

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

64.

Gautam Mukhopadhaya

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Myanmar

65.

Ramesh Narayanaswami

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

66.

Surendra Nath

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

67.

P.A. Nazareth

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico

68.

P. Joy Oommen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

69.

Amitabha Pande

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

70.

Maxwell Pereira

IPS (Retd.)

Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi

71.

G.K. Pillai

IAS (Retd.)

Former Home Secretary, GoI

72.

Rajesh Prasad

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to the Netherlands

73.

R.M. Premkumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

74.

Rajdeep Puri

IRS (Resigned)

Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI

75.

T.R. Raghunandan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI

76.

N.K. Raghupathy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI

77.

V.P. Raja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

78.

C. Babu Rajeev

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI

79.

K. Sujatha Rao

IAS (Retd.)

Former Health Secretary, GoI

80.

M.Y. Rao

IAS (Retd.)

 

81.

Satwant Reddy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI

82.

Vijaya Latha Reddy

IFS (Retd.)

Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI

83.

Julio Ribeiro

IPS (Retd.)

Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

84.

Aruna Roy

IAS (Resigned)

 

85.

A.K. Samanta

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal

86.

Deepak Sanan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh

87.

G. Sankaran

IC&CES (Retd.)

Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal

88.

N.C. Saxena

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

89.

A. Selvaraj

IRS (Retd.)

Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

90.

Ardhendu Sen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

91.

Abhijit Sengupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI

92.

Aftab Seth

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Japan

93.

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFoS (Retd.)

Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

94.

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

95.

Navrekha Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Indonesia

96.

Raju Sharma

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

97.

Mukteshwar Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission

98.

Sujatha Singh

IFS (Retd.)

Former Foreign Secretary, GoI

99.

Tara Ajai Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka

100.

Tirlochan Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI

101.

Narendra Sisodia

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

102.

Parveen Talha

IRS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

103.

Anup Thakur

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

104.

P.S.S. Thomas

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

105.

Hindal Tyabji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

106.

Ashok Vajpeyi

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi

107.

Ramani Venkatesan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

108.

Rudi Warjri

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

 

 

 

If Sedition goes, so must criminalising provisions of UAPA: CCG

The group of former Civil Servants issue detailed analysis in an Open Statement on the Sedition Provision in the Indian Penal Code

sedition law

The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), a formidable group of former Indian civil servants has urged the Supreme Court to judicially determine section 124A (Sedition) as unconstitutional and stroke it down.

In a detailed statement issued on June 12, it has also urged that provisions of other draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), sections 2(1) (o) (iii) and 13 (1) need to also be similarly struck down. In this detailed analysis of criminalising provisions, the group has also pointed out that Indian penal Code (IPC) sections 153 (a) and (b) are typically and often mis-interpreted and used to penalise free speech.

In this context, the Constitutional Conduct Group has put out an open statement on sedition law and the Supreme Court, calling for a basic structure principle to safeguard citizens’ rights: “Given that no democracy can exist without freedom of speech and expression, including the right to promote opinions unfavourable to the government, the Supreme Court should use this opportunity to declare an overarching ‘basic structure principle’ of the Constitution protecting freedom of speech and expression including the reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2), so that government interference with individual freedom of speech and expression can be prevented.”  Over 108 former civil servants are signatories to this.

The text of the statement is reproduced here:

“We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. Our group has no affiliation with any political party, and we, as its members, believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.

“On May 11, 2022, a chorus of appreciation greeted the Supreme Court’s interim orders on a batch of cases which had challenged the constitutionality of the sedition provision contained in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  The Supreme Court’s order was an interim one, viz. to keep in abeyance this section and all related pending trials, appeals and proceedings until further orders.  While we would, like others, wish to applaud this decision of the Supreme Court, we feel that, at present, it deserves only a muted cheer.

“The Supreme Court’s order, inasmuch as it results in immediate relief against arrest, investigation or under-trial detention under Section 124A, is certainly laudable (provided it does not adversely affect the persons already charged). Not so laudable is the impression it gives that the suspension is a response to the union government’s statement that it is reviewing Section 124A and considering its revision and reform. Review and revision by the executive cannot be a substitute for judicial determination of the constitutional limits of the power of the executive to restrict freedom of speech and expression. It is important for the Supreme Court not to get sidetracked by the executive and instead to answer the fundamental issue raised by the petitioners, viz. is Section 124A of the IPC constitutionally valid?

“Section 124A of the IPC is certainly a strange provision to have in a democracy. It criminalizes the feelings of dislike, contempt and disaffection towards “the government established by law in India”, even where such feelings are not linked to any violent, illegal or criminal act.  Disaffection and contempt for the government of the day are feelings through which democratic republics are born.  Such feelings are considered criminal only in autocracies. Where the government of the day can be, and is, changed through the electoral process, it can surely not be a criminal offence for any citizen to merely harbour and express feelings of disaffection, etc. towards the government.

“In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence.” Yet this disaffection is what Section 124A treats as criminal. Sixty years ago, in Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld Section 124A IPC, but qualified their decision as follows:

. . . we propose to limit [the] operation [of Section 124A] only to such activities …. involving incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace.

“This limiting of Section 124A to activities which involve incitement to violence or public disorder has, however, been by and large ignored in practice by the police and by the courts. As against the thousands of cases charged by the police under Section 124A and similar draconian provisions/laws, the low rate of conviction casts serious doubt about the genuineness of claims made during investigation and prosecution. It shows that the real purpose of such laws is to provide autocratic rulers a powerful weapon to suppress their rivals and control public opinion.

“However, whether or not Section 124A is finally deleted or altered, it will make little difference to the common citizen insofar as freedom of speech and expression as spelt out in Article 19(1) of the Constitution is concerned. This is because, apart from Section 124A of the IPC, there are several other provisions in the IPC and other Acts which shackle this fundamental right of citizens and leave them open to arbitrary arrest and prosecution by the government. The only way that the citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression can be protected is if the Supreme Court examines Article 19 under the “basic structure of the Constitution” principle with reference to all existing laws and provisions that put curbs on this freedom.

“The armoury of arbitrary weapons used to suppress dissent and opposition and control the free formation of public opinion has expanded over the years to include a number of offences similar to those under Section 124A. Prominent amongst these offences are Section 153A of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, etc.), Section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), Section 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) and Section 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes). These provisions are today widely and routinely misused by the police and their political masters with the same objective as in the case of Section 124A.

“Over the years, slowly and surreptitiously, the substance of the offence of sedition has been “snuck” into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), defined more elaborately, and with more draconian consequences, than in Section 124A. Significantly, no political party is blameless in this regard and governments of all political complexions have been trampling upon human rights and the freedom of expression

“Section 13(1) of the UAPA states that “Whoever: (a) takes part in or commits, or (b) advocates, abets, advises or incites the commission of, any unlawful activity….” shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years. “Unlawful activity” as defined under Section 2(1)(o)(iii) of the UAPA is very similar to the definition of sedition contained in Sec 124A IPC.

“If Section 124A of the IPC is held by the court to be unconstitutional, because speech and expression that merely create disaffection are protected (and not prohibited) under Article 19(1), Section 2(1)(o)(iii) of the UAPA will also need to be amended to delete elements imported from Section 124A, viz. the criminalization of speech and expression which is not an integral part of any violent, illegal, criminal act. Deletion of one, while retaining the other, would be irrational.

“Deleting Section 124A from the IPC, while retaining criminalization of “unlawful activities” under the UAPA, will give substantial political advantage to the union government and the party in power at the national level. Currently, state governments are free to prosecute persons for offences under the IPC, including for sedition under Section 124A.  No permission of the union government is required.   States ruled by political parties other than that at the national level sometimes use Section 124A to prosecute supporters of the national ruling party for sedition (as recently happened in Maharashtra). The ruling party at the union level is powerless to prevent such prosecution. The UAPA, on the other hand, vests no powers with the state governments. It provides that no court shall take cognizance of any offence of unlawful activity without the previous sanction of the Central Government.   Deleting Section 124A of the IPC will mean that the power to prosecute those who promote unfavourable opinions against the government will rest solely with the union government. This provides a major incentive for the union government to delete Section 124A under the pretext of protecting human rights while in reality strengthening its ability to suppress liberty in an even more draconian manner.

“Given that no democracy can exist without freedom of speech and expression, including the right to promote opinions unfavourable to the government, the Supreme Court should use this opportunity to declare an overarching ‘basic structure principle’ of the Constitution protecting freedom of speech and expression including the reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2), so that government interference with individual freedom of speech and expression can be prevented. In doing so, the Court should hew to the principle that any permissible restriction on speech and expression must be only against speech or expression that is likely to result in imminent violence or restricts the freedom of speech and expression of others.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

The 108-strong list of the signatories of the Constitutional Conduct Group are listed below:

1.

Anita Agnihotri

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI

2.

S.P. Ambrose

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI

3.

Anand Arni

RAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

4.

J.L. Bajaj

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Administrative Reforms and Decentralisation Commission, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

5.

G. Balachandhran

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

6.

Vappala Balachandran

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

7.

Gopalan Balagopal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

8.

Chandrashekar Balakrishnan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

9.

Sushant Baliga

Engineering Services (Retd.)

Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI

10.

Rana Banerji

RAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

11.

T.K. Banerji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

12.

Sharad Behar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

13.

Aurobindo Behera

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha

14.

Madhu Bhaduri

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Portugal

15.

Pradip Bhattacharya

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal

16.

Meeran C Borwankar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI

 

17.

Ravi Budhiraja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI

18.

Sundar Burra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

19.

R. Chandramohan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

20.

K.M. Chandrasekhar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Cabinet Secretary, GoI

21.

Rachel Chatterjee

IAS (Retd.)

Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

22.

Gurjit Singh Cheema

IAS (Retd.)

Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab

23.

F.T.R. Colaso

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

24.

Anna Dani

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

25.

Surjit K. Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand

26.

Vibha Puri Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

27.

P.R. Dasgupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

28.

Pradeep K. Deb

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI

29.

Nitin Desai

 

Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI

30.

M.G. Devasahayam

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

31.

A.S. Dulat

IPS (Retd.)

Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI

32.

K.P. Fabian

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Italy

33.

Arif Ghauri

IRS (Retd.)

Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)

34.

Gourisankar Ghosh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI

35.

Suresh K. Goel

IFS (Retd.)

Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI

36.

S.K. Guha

IAS (Retd.)

Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI

37.

H.S. Gujral

IFoS (Retd.)

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab

38.

Meena Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

39.

Ravi Vira Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

40.

Wajahat Habibullah

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner

41.

Deepa Hari

IRS (Resigned)

 

42.

Sajjad Hassan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur

43.

Siraj Hussain

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI

44.

Kamal Jaswal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

45.

Najeeb Jung

IAS (Retd.)

Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi

46.

Vinod C. Khanna

IFS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI

47.

Brijesh Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

48.

Ish Kumar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

49.

Sudhir Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal

50.

Subodh Lal

IPoS (Resigned)

Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI

51.

B.B. Mahajan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI

52.

P.M.S. Malik

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI

53.

Harsh Mander

IAS (Retd.)

Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

54.

Amitabh Mathur

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

55.

Lalit Mathur

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI

56.

Aditi Mehta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

57.

Sonalini Mirchandani

IFS (Resigned)

GoI

58.

Sunil Mitra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

59.

Noor Mohammad

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India

60.

Avinash Mohananey

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim

61.

Satya Narayan Mohanty

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

62.

Deb Mukharji

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

63.

Shiv Shankar Mukherjee

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

64.

Gautam Mukhopadhaya

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Myanmar

65.

Ramesh Narayanaswami

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

66.

Surendra Nath

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

67.

P.A. Nazareth

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico

68.

P. Joy Oommen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

69.

Amitabha Pande

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

70.

Maxwell Pereira

IPS (Retd.)

Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi

71.

G.K. Pillai

IAS (Retd.)

Former Home Secretary, GoI

72.

Rajesh Prasad

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to the Netherlands

73.

R.M. Premkumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

74.

Rajdeep Puri

IRS (Resigned)

Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI

75.

T.R. Raghunandan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI

76.

N.K. Raghupathy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI

77.

V.P. Raja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

78.

C. Babu Rajeev

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI

79.

K. Sujatha Rao

IAS (Retd.)

Former Health Secretary, GoI

80.

M.Y. Rao

IAS (Retd.)

 

81.

Satwant Reddy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI

82.

Vijaya Latha Reddy

IFS (Retd.)

Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI

83.

Julio Ribeiro

IPS (Retd.)

Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

84.

Aruna Roy

IAS (Resigned)

 

85.

A.K. Samanta

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal

86.

Deepak Sanan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh

87.

G. Sankaran

IC&CES (Retd.)

Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal

88.

N.C. Saxena

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

89.

A. Selvaraj

IRS (Retd.)

Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

90.

Ardhendu Sen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

91.

Abhijit Sengupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI

92.

Aftab Seth

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Japan

93.

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFoS (Retd.)

Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

94.

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

95.

Navrekha Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Indonesia

96.

Raju Sharma

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

97.

Mukteshwar Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission

98.

Sujatha Singh

IFS (Retd.)

Former Foreign Secretary, GoI

99.

Tara Ajai Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka

100.

Tirlochan Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI

101.

Narendra Sisodia

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

102.

Parveen Talha

IRS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

103.

Anup Thakur

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

104.

P.S.S. Thomas

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

105.

Hindal Tyabji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

106.

Ashok Vajpeyi

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi

107.

Ramani Venkatesan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

108.

Rudi Warjri

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

 

 

 

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