Bastar Journalist Booked For Sedition For Sharing Satirical Cartoon On Judge Loya Case
Bastar-based journalist Kamal Shukla was charged with sedition (Section 124A) by the Chhattisgarh police on Monday for sharing a satirical cartoon on Facebook on the judiciary and the government. The complaint against Shukla was launched by a person from Rajasthan to the Raipur cyber cell that, in turn, transferred it to Kanker police station.
The cartoon commented on the Supreme Court’s decision to reject petitions calling for an independent investigation into the mysterious circumstances under which special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya died. Shukla is the editor of ‘Bhumkal Samachar‘ newspaper and has been extensively covering fake encounters.
Talking to Newsclick, he said this is not the first time when sedition has been used against journalists in the state. “Chhattisgarh police has registered a complaint against seven journalists in the last one month. They are trying to frighten the journalists who have questioned the policies of Raman Singh government. Nitin Sinha and Saurabh Agarwal of Raigarh were slapped with cases when they raised questions through their reporting.”
“I am not the only person who has questioned the judgement of the Supreme Court related to the mysterious death of judge B H Loya. Common people were expecting that the Supreme Court will allow an independent investigation. Similarly, the opposition parties’ move to bring an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice showed the judiciary is working under pressure,” said Shukla. Pointing out the suspicious complaint filed against, Shukla added “Like IT Cells, political parties have formed legal cells to scrutinize content on social media which opposes their policies. Then, they register a complaint to silence them.” When questioned if he would delete the post, Shukla said he had done no such thing. “I am searching for the cartoon and I will share it again. How can the authorities be so intolerant? I just expressed my thoughts on the condition of judiciary today,” he remarked.
Justice Loya died mysteriously while presiding over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter trial wherein BJP president Amit Shah was an accused. The judge to follow Loya cleared Shah of all charges related to this case.
The Logical Indian take
India slipped lower in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, ranking just above Pakistan. The report stated, “In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay”.
Journalists, activists, cartoonists and even comedians are often hushed by slapping sedition charges. Sedition as part of the Indian Penal Code was introduced and used by the British to suppress the citizens – their freedom of expression and their fight for independence. The IPC and most importantly sedition is an inheritance from the British empire.
Sedition by meaning is defined as conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch. It is any government’s best tool to control speech; it is a politician’s greatest weapon and a free citizen’s biggest nightmare. Progressive democracies, however, have always prioritized freedom of speech, expression and freedom of religion over the sedition. The Indian government needs to do the same.