New Delhi: Former Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta remarked that there was nothing 'seditious' about the 'Toolkit' document which led to the arrest of the 21-year old climate activist Disha Ravi.
While speaking at a panel discussion on NDTV, Justice Gupta said that 'every citizen of this country has a right to oppose the government so long as the opposition is peaceful.
Disha Ravi was arrested on 14 February and later remanded to a 5-day custody by a Delhi Magistrate. The arrest took place in Bangalore following the release of a 'toolkit', which international climate activist Greta Thunberg shared. The toolkit is a document containing guidelines on farmers' protest on social media and has been used as a tool for charging dissidents with various offences.
The charge against Ravi are offences relating to sedition by creating disaffection against India, spreading of communal disharmony and criminal conspiracy.
Justice Gupta commented that the arrest represented an attack on freedom of speech and expression, since every citizen had the right to oppose the government peaceful.
Emphasising that he had read the 'toolkit' document as available in the public domain, Justice Gupta said ""I see that there is nothing in the toolkit on anything with regard to violence or anything with regard to inciting people…I don't see what is seditious about this document. One may or may not agree with the protestors, that is a different matter. But to say that this is sedition is totally not understanding the law".
Justice Gupta also recalled Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar case of 1962, wherein the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code was upheld by the Supreme Court, and noted that sedition could only take place if there was incitement to violence or public disorder, which was absent in the instant case."
Justice Gupta, who has been vocal earlier also about the rampant misuse of the sedition law to suppress dissent commented: "The sedition law was framed by the imperialistic, colonialist ruler, the British empire, who wanted to rule over India. Even at that time, the law made sedition a grave crime, punishable with life imprisonment…I was hoping that with our experiences of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi being sent behind bars for sedition, we would have abrogated this law, or at least toned down this clause. But, unfortunately, this law is being misused".