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Sedition and its roots in rudeness as an offence

This article highlights Sedition and its roots, the abolishment of sedition in Pakistan and its similarity to India’s Section 124A.

What is the context?

The Lahore High Court struck down the offense of sedition, while India witnessed arrests under related charges. The roots of sedition intertwine with rudeness as an offense, persisting in various laws.

  1. Sedition and its Expanding Reach:
  • Sedition and Section 124A in India criminalize speech that fosters disaffection towards the government.
  • A similar law was annulled in Pakistan, but its logic persists in other provisions criminalizing speech.
  1. The Alternate Charges:
  • The authorities in India booked individuals for criminal conspiracy and defacement of public property instead of sedition. They invoked the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, against the printing presses.
  1. Similar Patterns in India and Pakistan:
  • Pakistan employs blasphemy laws targeting its vulnerable citizens, while India criminalizes the “hurting of sentiments.”
  • Recent incidents, like the arrest of actor Chetan Kumar, demonstrate the transplanting of sedition’s logic into speech-related offenses.
  1. Rudeness as a Social Construct:
  • Society perceives rudeness based on who speaks and to whom.
  • Answering back, particularly from subordinate to superior, is deemed badtameezi.
  1. Historical Perspective:
  • The French Revolution eliminated the use of the more polite form of “you,” promoting equality and fraternity.
  1. Reinforcement of Hierarchies:
  • Modernity and capitalism fail to dismantle social hierarchies effectively.
  • Commercially driven TV studios may appear to foster rudeness, but they actually reinforce social and political power.
  1. State Authority and Power Dynamics:
  • State officials claim a position of authority in the social hierarchy.
  • Encounters between citizens and state authority reveal the power dynamics at play.
  1. Prosecution of Speech Offenses:
  • Laws regarding offensive or disruptive speech often target individuals challenging established social and political power.
  • Prosecution frequently focuses on content rather than the act itself.

While courts examine the validity of sedition laws, the underlying logic of reverence towards established ideas and power structures has already permeated various speech-related offenses. To ensure a just and inclusive society, it is essential to strike a balance between preserving social order and upholding freedom of expression.

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