By Dr. Arun Mitra
Chief Justice of India has very validly pointed out the misuse of Section 124(A) of IPC which deals with the offence of sedition. Laws like the NSA, UAPA and sedition laws are a reflection of colonial era. He pointed it from legal perspective as these laws are utter violation of human rights. Any such law which curtails the right to freedom of speech and right to critically analyse the events and the government’s performance amounts to negation of basic human rights as enshrined in our constitution. There have been several allegations of these laws having been misused and people being framed falsely. These allegations are corroborated by reports that out 326 sedition cases filed during 2014 to 2019 only 6 have been convicted.
In these conditions health bears the maximum brunt in terms of both physical and mental wellbeing but hardly gets any space in the public discussion. It is only after Father Stan Swamy’s death in custody that the issue is getting highlighted. This has been widely acknowledged globally. In the Indian context it poses even a more serious question because here it is the vulnerable sections of the society who are at the receiving end. Presently it is the minorities, rights activists, those working for the uplift of tribals, adivasis, the dalits and women, who are being framed under such laws. Now even the farmers protesting for their demands are being framed under such laws.
The Indian penal code has sufficient provisions to charge a person for any crime even when it concerns the integrity & sovereignty of the nation. Difference being that under these special laws there is provision of keeping the person in lockup for a long time without any trial and without the right to get reprieve from judiciary for a stipulated period. Such incidents have several health issues not only for the individual framed as accused but for his family, community and society as a whole.
Arrest of a person particularly if he/she is the bread earner, which they mostly are, pushes the family into sudden economic crisis which affects their basic needs for food, nutrition, health and education. Many a time the children and the elderly also have to go hungry as the family has to spent huge amount on litigations which further pauperizes them. Children in the growing age suffer from malnutrition which impacts their all life to come. Women in our families sacrifice their food for the family in general and for children in particular, they thus land up into nutritional deficiency disorders. Needless to mention the person in the lockup is denied a healthy diet in the prison.
Until acquittal the whole family faces social stigma for the crime which is not proven. The family members find it difficult to get job of their liking; even to find a rental accommodation is a hard task. Children face humiliation in the school. This affects their psychological makeup. Many of them are likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A child who should have grown with love and compassion now grows up with contempt and hatred.
Many cases imposed on the members of a community or a group are meant to send fear signal among them to keep shut or face the consequences of being framed in false cases. As a result, even though willing, the community or the society tends to stay aloof for the fear of reprisal by the state or the antagonistic groups. The paranoia which develops has serious consequences. Affected people can develop violent reaction. The hapless accused in many cases develop suicidal tendencies out of frustration of having been falsely implicated.
The perpetrators of misuse of such laws, politicians, mafia, bureaucrats, police or vested interests in a particular situation develop narcissist behaviour and the feeling of being able to force upon their will. Guarantee to go scot free after being protected by the state apparatus gives the gangs alibi to bully any one. This adds to their criminal behaviour. Many of them had never been into crime earlier but now circumstances embolden them.
It is therefore important that only a transparent legal system be adopted to check any sort of crime giving due place to the accused. The sedition law, RSA, UAPA and TADA should be immediately revoked. We have enough history to learn from the crimes committed by the Nazis against those who differed from them.
The World Medical Association and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War had condemned arrest of members of central council of the Turkish Medical Association when they issued a declaration titled “War is a popular health issue” in opposition to the Afrin operation. The government had charged them with “making a terrorist organisation’s propaganda” and “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” on account of the peace declaration. In India we have the example of Dr Kafeel who was arrested for raising the issue of shortages in the hospital in Gorakhpur which had led to death of children. Medical personnel who are custodians of health of the people have to raise voice vociferously against such laws so as to protect and promote people’s health. (IPA Service)