October 16th, 2017
A teenager in Uttar Pradesh, Zakir Ali Tyagi, had been arrested for a comment that he had made on the social media on the recent ruling about the Ganga and Yamuna rivers being ‘living human entity’ and also commenting on the temple politics of the BJP, as reported by The Telegraph.
Zakir is pursuing a bachelor’s degree through correspondence from Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut. He takes a keen interest in politics and is an avid reader.
He was charged with “hacking” and allegedly tortured in the lock-up.
As per the reports of The Telegraph, on the night of 2 April, sub-inspector Dharmendra Singh forcefully took him away in a police van. He returned only on 13 May.
He was charged under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act that deals with hacking and could lead to a jail term of three years.
Tyagi was among those who had attended a meeting of the Bhim Army Defence Committee at the Press Club of India in Delhi, describing their plight under Yogi Adityanath’s rule in Uttar Pradesh.
This committee was formed in March to arrange the legal defence of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and other arrested activists, and highlight the alleged injustice suffered by Dalits, Muslims and others in Uttar Pradesh.
Tyagi reportedly said that he was being targeted because he had questioned the High Court ruling of granting “legal person” status to the Ganga and Yamuna.
His comment read: “The Ganga has been declared a living entity; will criminal charges be initiated if someone drowns in it?”
The FIR accused Tyagi of posting “galat tareeke ke (wrong type of) comments” on Facebook.
Wasiq Nadeem Khan, Tyagi’s legal aid, told The Telegraph, “The police had initially registered the FIR under Section 66A, which prescribes three years’ jail for offensive posts, unaware that the Supreme Court had struck it down as unconstitutional in March 2015. When they realised the mistake, they merely dropped the letter ‘A’.”
Tyagi has also been associated with various other cases that involve jibes at the temple politics of the BJP which has landed him into trouble.
He had written that the Haj subsidy subsidised Air India. Another of his post said: “The government’s promise on the Ram Mandir was nothing but a gimmick, which will be made before the next polls again to lure voters, like the promise to send mullahs to Pakistan.”
Tyagi was also booked for cheating for using a murdered policeman’s image as his profile picture as part of a campaign to seek justice for the officer. The picture was of Akhtar Khan; a police officer killed on duty in Greater Noida.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Tyagi has talked about his horrific experience in jail. “I was locked up at Kotwali Nagar police station. Later that night, a man in a yellow T-shirt, jeans and shoes entered the cell and asked which of us was Zakir. When I raised my hand, he kicked and punched me till I lay writhing on the floor,” he said.
Sedition charges were allegedly added after he received bail. He is going to approach the Allahabad high court for quashing the sedition case.
The Logical Indian Take
Tyagi’s lawyer had pointed out that the case against him was lodged under Section 66A of Information and Technology Act, 2000. But this had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 in the famous Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case. The police after realising the mistake, filed the complaint under Article 66.
In this light, it is essential to understand the impact of an expert panel constituted to study the 267th Law Commission of India report on hate speech that has suggested amendments to the IPC, CrPC and IT Act for curbing online hate speech.
The TK Viswanathan Committee has suggested amendments to IPC Section 153, Section 505A, CrPC 1973, and to Section 78 of IT Act to allow a police officer (recommends specially recruited ones to handle cyber crimes) to investigate any offence under this Act.
However, it has been pointed out that the recommendations given and the amendments suggested are done without taking into consideration any inputs from the public. It is crucial for the government to realise that tweaking of policies would not result in stopping the current problem of cyberbullying and trolling.
An umbrella policy to police online speech will only exuberate the situation and hamper those who are already bearing the brunt of being on the receiving end of the power hierarchy. The amendment that is brought about needs to take into consideration the socio-political context and only then can it hope to tackle the problem of online slander campaigns.
It is important to remember that charges of sedition have also long been used to book people claiming them to be ‘anti-nationals’. Section 124A is vague. Its ambit is dangerously broad. Its potential to be misused is extravagant. It is any government’s best tool to control speech; it is a politician’s greatest weapon and a free citizen’s biggest nightmare.
We must remember that “sedition” is a broad concept which needs to be narrowed when talked about. And terms like “anti-national” or “terrorists” are highly subjective and thus need to be explained first.
The Logical Indian condemns the arrest of the youth for apparently no good reason and also feels appalled that a person has to spend 42 days in Jail without any reason. Actions like these cause a major blow to a democracy where the discourse of free speech and expression are censured, and fair debates are objected.
Read more here: The Telegraph