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11 February, 2011

Sedition: I plead guilty

Below is the text of a petition drafted by Arvind Kejriwal. Those who endorse its contents can sign it online. The petition will be submitted to all the persons to whom it is addressed and also possibly submitted in the court as an affidavit. Kindly note that, even though very small, there is a chance that some kind of action may be initiated by Government against the signatories but then the whole purpose of the petition is to provoke the Government to do so and challenge this sedition law.


Dr. Manmohan Singh
The Hon'ble Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi
India - 110 101
Telephone: 91-11-23012312
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857

Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil
The Hon'ble President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi
India - 110 004
Telephone : 91-11-23015321
Fax : 91-11-23017290 / 91-11-23017824

Dr. Raman Singh
The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
Room No. 303
D.K.S. Bhavan
India - 492 001
Fax: +91 771 2221206

The judgement in Binayak Sen case has raised several issues which are extremely critical for Indian democracy and important for every

I am not writing this to defend Binayak Sen. I am sure that he willfinally be exonerated as the case rests on weak conjectures rather than on legally admissible evidence.

I am writing this because I am deeply concerned that the laws under which he has been convicted can be used against any one of us; and at anytime, pretty much anyone could be convicted and sent behind bars, if we become too inconvenient for our politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists.

After this judgment, I actually read all the sections under which Binayak Sen has been convicted. He has been convicted of "sedition". Section 124A of IPC defines "sedition" as

124A. Sedition - Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by
signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts
to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite
disaffection towards, the government established by law in India,
shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be
added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which
fine may be added, or with fine.

Explanation 1 - The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty and
all feelings of enmity.

Explanation 2 - Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of
the government with a view to obtain their alterations by lawful
means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or
disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

Explanation 3 - Comments expressing disapprobation of the
administrative or other action of the government without exciting or
attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not
constitute an offence under this section.

Therefore, sedition is defined as an act which causes contempt or hatred or disaffection against the "government" - not against the "country" or the "constitution".

Most of us working against corruption and injustice in and by various governments could be easily prosecuted and successfully convicted under the above section because we often criticize various governments in the strongest imaginable terms. It's a fine line and completely open to interpretation as to what constitutes mere criticism and what amounts to "hatred". Going strictly by the language of this section of the law, one can easily argue that all our opposition parties no matter which party might be in power very often do everything possible to spread "disaffection" against the government in power. Therefore, all opposition leaders at some point or the other have been guilty of

While this section of the law can be fairly easily misused to suppress genuine dissent and democratic freedoms, it does not treat grave offences, which have the potential of destabilizing Indian economy, as "sedition". For example, take the case of the recent 2G scam which is believed to have caused a mind-boggling loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores to our country. This is almost 25% of annual Gross Tax Receipts of
Government of India. Therefore, the individuals concerned almost threatened the economic sovereignty of India. Interestingly, this is not sedition. This is "corruption", which invites the same punishment as would be awarded to a Railway Ticket Inspector who takes Rs 1000 bribe to give a railway ticket. How ridiculous is that?

IPC was written in 1860 by the British! If you think back to the British times these laws made perfect sense as it suited their basic objectives. The intended purpose of these laws was to ensure that the British rulers could economically plunder India while ensuring that no native of India stood in the way of achieving these goals. Anyone who resisted these efforts was automatically a traitor in the eyes of the
British rulers and their activities were declared as "sedition".

Section 120B of IPC is another section under which Binayak Sen has been convicted. This Section 120B refers of criminal conspiracy. If anyone conspires in a crime, he is liable for the same punishment as is the person committing the original crime.

The Nira Radia tapes show how many of the journalists, several businessmen and a number of politicians were collectively involved in lobbying to plant their favoured person as the minister who will serve their vested interest, thus making a mockery of our democratic set up and threatening India's political and economic stability. The tapes indicate that our cabinet positions are effectively available for sale! Isn't this a fundamental threat to our constitution?

All these individuals are certainly guilty of criminal conspiracy under section 120B read with the Prevention of Corruption Act and should be tried as such, even under the present laws.

In the case of the 2G scam, wasn't the Prime Minister of India fully aware of the corrupt practices of the Telecom Minister in his cabinet? If so, wasn't it his constitutional duty to intervene? Did he turn a blind eye? Did he try to protect the Minister's misdeeds? Why did he stall on the request of Dr Subramaniam Swamy for more than eleven months seeking permission to prosecute the Telecom Minister? Why
didn't the CBI, which operates directly under the Prime Minister, investigate the case for almost a year after registering the FIR despite strong displeasure expressed by the Supreme Court on several occasions? Why did the CBI start moving only when the Court decided to monitor the CBI's investigations? Shouldn't such abetment and protection by the Prime Minister amount to sedition? Unfortunately,
the British laws under which independent India functions do not treat such serious charges as sedition.

At a minimum, the PM is guilty of criminal conspiracy under section 120B read with the Prevention of Corruption Act and criminal breach of trust and should be tried as such even under the present laws.

The reality is that the role of none of the above players would even be honestly investigated because the CBI, which is the agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting them, works directly under the command of the accused. Even if they were tried and convicted, they would be guilty of "corruption", which carries a punishment of six months to a maximum of seven years.

The media has been replete with stories of how Chief Ministers in power - Dr. Raman Singh, Yedyurappa, and Naveen Patnaik, to name a few - are responsible for the sale of minerals of this country at throwaway prices. They are apparently giving licenses for mining, not because these minerals are needed for India, but for exporting most of these minerals. On one hand, many countries have put restrictions on export of their minerals to preserve them for their own future needs, our politicians are facilitating exports of our minerals at throwaway prices. For instance, the state gets a royalty and cess of Rs 64 per ton of bauxite mined, cost of mining is roughly Rs 160 per ton and the mining company sells it in international market at more than Rs 1000 per ton. Likewise, cost of mining iron ore is Rs 300, the state has been getting a royalty of Rs 27 per ton of ore and the companies sell it in international market at more than Rs 5000 per ton. The economics of mining of almost all minerals is as absurd to say the least. Not just that, mining companies, with full knowledge of the government agencies, mine much more illegally than they are permitted. Illegal
mining is so rampant that it is feared that some of our mines would be completely depleted within the next few years. Royalty rates are fixed by the central government. Licenses and permissions are given together by both the central and the state governments. Sadly, even inter-party antagonism does not stand in the way when it comes to corruption at the expense our natural resources. Complete bonhomie is evident between the BJP in the states and the Congress at the centre in these
corrupt dealings.

Aren't all these honourable Chief Ministers, who are acting in collusion with the various ministries of the Central Government, guilty of sedition/ criminal conspiracy? They are doing precisely what their British predecessors did. Loot this country and take the wealth out of the country. Since we work under the same British laws, their loot is not a serious crime but anyone who dares to "hate" their
activities or resist them and incite "contempt" or "disaffection" against such open loot of the country is "sedition". How can one call himself an Indian and not "hate" such practices?

We fought against British not because of the colour of their skin but also because of the exploitative character of their government. Unfortunately, the character of the present governments has become far more exploitative.

The judgement in the Binayak Sen case clearly raises a larger issue about our legal system and its interpretations - what exactly is tantamount to a serious crime under the Indian law? Under our present legal system, economic plundering of our precious national resources and invaluable revenue streams is a petty offence called "corruption". But anyone who resists that or "hates" such practices is guilty of "sedition". Surely, while this makes no sense whatsoever.

The 2G scam, the Nira Radia tapes, and the mining scandal are just three examples from very recent times that highlight the fallacies surrounding our legal systems and the desperate need for complete reform.

These laws are no longer suited to modern-day India. It protects those in power and gives them the freedom to use these laws against innocent people when it suits their convenience or to stifle dissent when so desired. In fact, it helps those in power to continue the economic plunder of the country, as was done by the British, under the guise of "democracy". They need such complete overhauls that it would not be an
exaggeration if I say that we need to overthrow them and replace them with systems which are far more democratic and in tune with the aspirations of the people of an independent India.

While the Binayak Sen's case has hit the headlines, there are many lesser known people, some of whom are tribals, who have been unfortunately languishing in jails due to these laws. It is learnt that many of them are in jails for several years without any trial. Some of them have not been produced in courts even once.

We demand complete overhaul of this legal system. Plunder of economic and natural resources of India should be declared as "sedition". Having disaffection against such loot and human rights abuses should be termed as patriotism rather than sedition. And all the players mentioned above who have either looted the country or have abetted the same should be tried for sedition, criminal conspiracy and criminal
breach of trust.

I wish to declare that I have strong "disaffection" for the government of India, the government of Chhattisgarh and all other governments which indulge in corruption, human rights abuses and inflict injustices upon its people. I have "contempt" for many of their policies. I "hate" many of the systems prevalent in these governments.
I call upon the people of India to likewise have "disaffection" against these governments. I will do everything at my command and with all the energy, strength and resources at my disposal to resist such unjust and deprecatory systems. I "hate" this system and am doing everything to spread "hatred" against this system amongst public.

But I love my country - India. I love the natives of my country - my fellow Indians. In my own humble ways, I have been working towards fighting injustices and for the welfare of my countrymen. But I will continue to have strong "disaffection" against successive Indian Governments as long as they persist with their unjust and corrupt

Under section 124A of IPC, I am guilty of "sedition" and I plead guilty of the same. Jai Hind!


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