Undemocratic law

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The philosophy of making laws for facilitating the working and life of common masses easier has been suffering from the crisis of deprivation on the part of the rulers of the day. The point in question is the laws that are expected to be even-handed in application for the welfare of the people of the country. But more importantly, they must fit into the democratic system of the country. The law of sedition was a colonial instrument designed to maintain supremacy of the imperial power by keeping subjects in check. The bar for sedition is so low in India that even junior school students can attract the attention of this colonial era law, which should have been struck off the statute books long ago. It is worth noting that the Karnataka police have registered a case under sections 124A and 504 against Shaheen School in Bidar and its management, for enacting a play by Class Four students against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The provisions penalize those who excite disaffection against the Government and intentionally cause insult in order to provoke a breach of the peace. The school children, who took part in the play which, according to a social activist, who filed the complaint which lead to registration of the case, excited disaffection and threatened the peace, would be nine years old, on average. These school students, their families and their teachers are being probed by the police, who are disrupting their lives. The activist, who is suspected to be a supporter of right wing thought process, has alleged that the play showed the prime minister in a bad light. However, the video recording of the performance, on the basis of which the complaint was filed, suggests that the play only reflected contemporary reality, the protests which have erupted all over the country against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the CAA. Their purpose is not to show the Government in a good light, but to oppose its policies, and the opposition has been routinely vocal, employing terms that the ruling party has reason to be sensitive about. Theatre activities put up a mirror to society, and if the picture is not pretty, the mirror is not at fault. Of course, the law is even-handed. Last month, the Shree Rama School, also in Karnataka, and its president, an RSS leader, were booked for staging a play in which the Babri Masjid demolition was re-enacted. This play also reflected reality and the event had happened close to 27 years back. It has been noted time and again that laws should be even handed for the welfare of the common masses, who are the basic electorate for electing the democratic governments and choose their rulers. But it is unfortunate that laws are being applied to harass and torture the people and their children for meeting the ends of their rule, whether it is in right sense in the interest of the people or not. But more importantly, they must fit into the democratic system of the country. The law of sedition was a colonial instrument designed to shore up imperial power by keeping subjects in check. It has no relevance in an independent and democratic country, where the people are sovereign, and where the right to free speech includes the right to question or call into question the political leadership, and even to show it in a bad light. And it is completely irrelevant in the case of children enacting a school play about current affairs, and receiving some political education in the process. The dissent is the essence of democracy and every persons, school children, their parents and teachers have every right to question the working of the rulers, they have elected.