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Brijesh Kalappa
Thursday , March 29, 2012 at 17 : 46

Team Anna and their seditious speeches


The Parliament has mildly reprimanded Team Anna with Speaker Meira Kumar reading out a statement saying any comment that lowered the dignity of Parliament was "unwarranted and unacceptable". If India were an authoritarian state, it would have indubitably charged Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal with sedition. The Indian Penal Code defines sedition as under:

"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 Government established by law in India, 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."

There can be no mistake in that confronting Parliament and using derogatory language to describe it is, in essence, challenging all the laws made by Parliament. It is a mockery of the Indian people since Parliament represents us all. It is trite to say that all the 125 crore Indians cannot agitate on issues peacefully. Thus our representatives are sent to represent all of us in the Indian Parliament. However, the charge of sedition for an offender in a nation which holds its democratic principles far too close to its heart may not fit for the present given our high tolerance levels. The Constitution enables freedom of speech, but that freedom is qualified in the words of the celebrated Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre, and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force."

It was not even that those making the speeches were established statesmen of stature. Anna Hazare is a country bumpkin with little education and has even less understanding of the Constitution and separation of powers. Arvind Kejriwal is an IIT Graduate, but the IIT does not provide lessons on civics, nor even does it provide education on civility. Consequently, the only thing that Kejriwal has in plenty is ambition. But with no perspective to go alongwith it, his ideas for the nation find appreciation with the mediocre rabble-rousers and anarchists. The Bhushans are experts in 'shock and awe' - their law practice has its foundation in this form. When a regular practitioner in the Supreme Court makes an outrageous claim that half of the Chief Justices in the last few years have been corrupt - like the Bhushans did - any appearance before any Court in the Country ought to yield favourable judicial orders, since no judge would wish to fall foul of the Bhushans. Kiran Bedi is a scorned and disgruntled person. She has even vented her frustration over being denied the Police Commissioner of Delhi's job on foreign shores recently.

The Arab Spring began on Facebook and Twitter. The revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world began on 18 December, 2010. Regime changes were witnessed on account of the Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Civil uprisings erupted in Bahrain and Syria. Major protests broke out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman and minor protests in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Clashes at the borders of Israel in May 2011 as well as protests by Arab minority in Iranian Khuzestan have also been inspired by the regional Arab Spring.

The protests are typically civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and internet censorship. Many demonstrations have met violent responses from authorities as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. These attacks have been answered with violence from protesters in some cases. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab World is said to be "the people want to bring down the regime." While the revolution seems purposeful, it is heady and full of adventure. The Spring in all these nations aspired to achieve a vibrant democracy like we have in India.

When Anna Hazare undertook his first fast at Jantar Mantar in April 2011, it was bang in the middle of the Arab Spring and Delhi was geographically far too close to the epicenter of that spring. Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal exhorted the people gathered there that the political class comprised of scoundrels and that Parliament was full of rapists, murderers and other assorted criminals. This speech was clearly seditious and intended to inflict a body blow to the representative democracy we practice in India. It can never be imagined that those making the speeches were unaware of the happenings in the Arab nations. These speeches were clearly intended to sway public opinion against the Indian Parliament and thus against the Indian state. It was like disseminating swine flu on the public at large when the disease was at its potent worst.

With a sagacious view to avoid an emergency like situation, the government perforce had to oblige the protestors by bringing them into the loop of law-making. But that was at a time when the CAG's reputation remained unsullied by R P Singh's damning revelations. A time when the Supreme Court's outrage remained justified, before it cancelled the entire tranche of 122 telecom licences, a time before it held A Raja guilty without even hearing him. This was also a time when Anna Hazare was a fresh commodity, unheard of, unseen earlier. His team members were then with their lily white reputations.

Now these things are an issue of the past. Team Anna has been let off with a warning from Parliament, but the next time they tip the line will be the time to act decisively. Repeat offenders cannot be let off as lightly.


More about Brijesh Kalappa

Brijesh Kalappa, an advocate in the Supreme Court, is the Additional Advocate General, Haryana. A former journalist, he has a wide range of interests including reading and travelling. He has worked with several legal luminaries on subjects of importance in civil, criminal, water and electoral laws and has individually represented governments, eminent individuals and major industrial houses. Gifted with the prowess for distinctive sharp-edged analysis, he has been working closely with several leaders of the Indian National Congress.