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Controversial Five Booked For Sedition By Barnala Police, Sikh Bodies Allege Misuse Of S. 124A


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Barnala/ Ludhiana (July 17, 2010): Section 124A is “the prince among the political sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC), designated to suppress the liberty of the Citizens”, was said by Gandhi in his written Statement before a British Judge, when he was charged with “Sedition” by British regime. Ruling regime changed for this peninsula, now called India, in 1947, when British rulers handed over power to current ruling regime of India. But the position of those, who wish to speak for themselves, for their rights, against injustice; who wish to speak fairly and openly, has not changed. Like British rulers, present day Indian rulers also charge them with Sedition under section 124A of Indian Penal Code (1860).

Recently, Barnala Police charged five young Sikhs for sedition and other offences. A leaflet published by the alleged accused persons forms the basis charge. The leaflet titled: “Sant Kehnde Rahe” is text version of a speech of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who is declared to be the Great Sikh of 20th Century by highest body of Sikhs, Sri Akal Takhat Sahib.

FIR No. 117, dated 25 June, 2010 registered at PS Barnala charged Surinder Singh Barnala, Bheem Singh Saddowala, Kuldeep Singh Namol, Sukhmandeep Singh Toor-Banjara and Kulwant Singh Dhandiwal with Section 124A (Sedition), 153A and 153B. Section 153A penalizes the act of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, whereas 153B relates to imputations or assertions prejudicial to integration of India.

Police asserts that some parts of the leaflet are highly objectionable, as it promotes extremism. Police says that the Leaflet published by the alleged accused carries following lines: “Whoever be an Amritdhari, himself recite Gurbani and preach others to do so, believe in Guru Granth Sahib, safeguard the honour of Women considering them as his sisters and mothers, preach fellows to follow Guru Granth Sahib, Unite Panth under Kesri Nishan Sahib, (and) if Government name him as an ‘extremist’, I proud to be such an extremist.”

On the other hand publishers say that the Leaflet does not contain anything which is newly introduced or written by Publishers. All speeches, interviews and many letters of Sant Bhindranwale are already published in a combined volume, titled “Singh Garaj” complied by S. Narain Singh, Editor of Awaz-e-Khalsa, and are published by Gurmat Pustak Bhandar, Amritsar. These speeches are even translated and published in English too. Many editions of these books have been published so far.

These volumes are never objected to by Government or the Police for so many years, and not even now. It puts a question mark on the basis for charges against accused persons charged with for allegedly committing such grave offences like Sedition etc.

It is notable that in the case of Balbir Singh and Anr. vs. State of U.P. [AIR (2000) SC 464]: the accused persons were convicted under Section 124A along with section 153B (IPC) and section 4(1) of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), for allegations that they were found to be hearing some cassettes containing speeches of ‘Sant Jarnail Singh Bhinadranwale’.

Text of Speeches was also quoted by the police in its’ charge sheet. On appeal the Supreme Court of India observed that there was not an iota of evidence to indicate that the accused appellants either committed or conspired or attempted or knowingly facilitated the commission of any disruptive activity. The apex Court acquitted the accused the accused persons while expressing satisfaction that no offence can be said to have been committed under section 124A or 153B of Indian Penal Code or section 4(1) of TADA.

Moreover, in current case, there is no direct incitement to violence and thus no offence is made out. “The pamphlet falls with in ambit of Article 19 (1) (a) of Constitution that guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of Speech and Expression.” said Advocate Lakhwinder Singh. He informed that: “In the case of Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar (AIR 1962 SC
955): the Supreme Court of India discussed, entire previous case law and approved the views of Federal Court of India, in order to uphold the Constitutional Validity of Section 124A, that direct incitement to Violence is the gist of the offence under section 124A.”

Thus, even at their face value, the facts alleged by the police fail to stand by the charges placed by the police in FIR.

Moreover, previous experience shows that cases like this never succeed in the courts. “These cases are meant to serve some other purposes, thus even the police do not believe in what they allege.” said Advocate Paramjeet Singh. “Many times these cases are lashed to suppress political oppositions, some times to put opponents in quarantine for a short term, and in some cases, as seems the current case, to deter the new political opponents” he added.

Even in recent past, Punjab Government and Punjab police has a long list of cases, which indicate towards a growing trend of misuse of law, especially the law of Sedition. In 2005 a case under same sections (124A, 153A and 153B) was filed against various leaders of Dal Khalsa for holding Sikh Raj Flag on 26 January. As there was no basis behind the charge to standby, all alleged accused were acquitted by the Court.

A case of Sedition was registered against many Sikh leaders, after Zee News telecasted a news drama called “deshdroh” few years back. But that cases was also found baseless by the Court.

Many such cases were filed against Simranjeet Singh Mann, head of SAD (A), but on trial the State failed to prove what it alleged, and Sirdar Mann was altogether discharged or acquitted by the Courts.

In 2006 Daljeet Singh Bittu, Chairman of SAD (Panch Pardhani) was charged with 124A, 153A and 153B by Barnala Police for allegedly committing these offences by addressing a gathering of farmers of three villages, whose land was to be forcibly acquired by the Government of Punjab for a private firm ‘Trident Group of Industries’. Recently Barnala court has acquitted him, as nothing incriminating was proved from the contents of speech of Bhai Bittu or other facts alleged by the police. “The real motive of the case was to keep Bhai Daljeet Singh Bittu away from the land issue, in order to forcibly acquire the land of Sikh farmers” said Darshan Singh, a regional leader of SAD (Panch Pardhani).

Similerly, in 2007, many persons, including Daljeet Singh Bittu, were charged with these section by Amritsar police for participating in 6 June (2007) gathering at Amritsar. Recently (on 8 June 2010) the Amritsar court also found that the case was baseless and acquitted all alleged accused.
Bhai Bittu is facing a similar case at Fatehgarh Sahib for participating in a protest march called by SGPC and Akal Takhat on 31 May, 2007 in wake of Dera row.

Sikh bodies allege that Punjab Government is misusing the Law to suppress their democratic struggle. Cases are filed just to use them as a reason for arresting Sikh leaders and terrorizing the people of Punjab. At the same time, by making false propaganda against Sikh leaders, State attempt to defame Sikh leaders.

Sikh Students Federation in a statement has claimed that: the Process of Law and especially the Charge of Sedition (Section 124A) is being misused by Punjab police at the behest of relevant time ruling parties. A long list of cases filed by police against Sikh leaders clearly indicates this trend. “As the Constitution guarantees the reasonable freedom of speech and expression, some legal safeguard must be provided against misuse of Law of Sedition, which indeed is highly political in nature.” said Makhan Singh Gandhuan, Vice president of Sikh Students Federation.




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