Freedom of speech and expression occupies a central place in almost all contemporary democracies. Likewise, it forms one of the most important pillars of our democracy. We use language, gestures and other forms of conduct to construct the world around us, to shape our personalities and to make ourselves intelligent to others. Democracy and free speech are concomitant to each other. Not all communicative acts ought to be protected under the garb of free speech. In consequence, it becomes important to understand what shall and shall not be protected without tainting democratic values. This article seeks to deal with one such provision which thwarts free speech and expression and which has been brought into the limelight repeatedly. Regrettably, the wide wording of Section 124A was and is continued to being used by our government to curb dissent and to repel any form of political accountability.
In recent times, we have witnessed a massive spurt in instances of sedition. These cases have soared in India and suppressed the ideals of free speech. Earlier this year, several anti-CAA and anti-NRC protesters were arrested for sedition. In fact, a sedition case was filed against a 19-year-old citizen for chanting “Pakistan Zindabad.” An editor of a Gujarati news portal was also charged under Section 124A for allegedly publishing an article suggesting that the chief minister could be replaced owing to the handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Frequent invocation of sedition law has become one of the most worrisome issues because free speech is imperative for maintaining democracy. It is manifestly clear that sedition runs against the concept of free speech. The right to dissent is systematically being obliterated by the threat of sedition. Due to its unforeseen ubiquity, it becomes imminent to understand the jurisprudence of this criminal provision.
Origin of 124A: Sedition
The crime of sedition was originally conceived in England during the rule of the king in order to protect the king and other monarchs from public criticism. Sedition was inserted in the IPC in the form of Section 124A in 1870 which originally read as:
“Whoever excites..or…attempts to excite feelings of disaffection to the Government shall be punishable with transportation for life.” Followed by a proviso “Disapprobation of the measures of the Government as is compatible with a disposition to render obedience to the lawful authority of the Government as is compatible with a disposition to render obedience to the lawful authority of the Government remains lawful.”
To get a better understanding, there are three important cases from the colonial saga that merit consideration. In the first case that came before the Calcutta High Court, Pehteram CJ in Queen Empress v. Jogendra Chunder Bose and Ors differentiated disapprobation from disaffection. He observed:
“Disaffection means a feeling contrary to affection, in other words, dislike or hatred. Disapprobation means simply disapproval. It is quite possible to disapprove of a man’s sentiments or action and yet to like him. If a person uses either spoken or written words calculated to create in the minds of the persons to whom they are addressed a disposition not to obey lawful authority of the Government, or to subvert or resist that authority, if an when occasion should arise, and if he does so with the intention of creating such a disposition in his hearers or readers, he will be guilty of the offence of attempting to excite disaffection within the meaning of the section, though no disturbance is brought about by his words or any feeling of disaffection, in fact produced by them”
It was held that merely intending to create disposition was enough to bring charges under this provision. It was not worth contending whether there was actual harm that followed such speech or writings. Since this version of sedition did not suffice the purpose, the judges in the Bal Gangadhar trial were forced to widen its scope. It was observed by Justice Strachey that “if any writing was found to be attributing to the government every sort of evil and misfortune suffered by the people, or dwelling on its foreign origin and character or imputing to it base motives or accusing it of hostility or indifference to the welfare of the people.” Accordingly, merely exciting the feeling of enmity was held sufficient to successfully bring a charge for sedition. Thereafter, the Bombay High Court in Pratod Case proceeded to criminalise any attempt to persuade Indians not to love their British rulers.
Thus, an overwhelmingly broad interpretation of Section 124A prevailed in the colonial era. The criminal charge of sedition was in most cases used by the British to incarcerate leaders at the vanguard of the freedom struggle like Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others, and to suppress the voices of the nationalist newspapers.
Post-Colonial Approach of the Indian Courts
The provision for sedition was heavily denounced in the Constituent Assembly debates as the founding fathers had themselves been prey to its misuse by the British. It was believed that the insertion of Article 13 had made the provision repugnant to freedom of speech embedded in Part III of the Constitution and was thus a dead law waiting to either be struck down by the courts or repealed by the First Legislature. The dissent of Jusitce Fazl Ali in Brij Bhushan wherein Section 124A was addressed by him in great detail assumes special significance. In his dissent, he redefined sedition as an offence insofar as the impugned words incited disturbances against public tranquillity or tended to do so, which he then linked with undermining the security of the State.
Even though it was conspicuous that the majority believed that section 124A was unconstitutional in Brij Bhushan and Romesh Thappar, they were unable to strike it down merely because that issue was not in consideration before them in the cases they were adjudicating. As a result, sedition survived the early cases litigated before the Supreme Court. Interestingly, after a while, some clarity was brought by The High Court of Punjab in Tara Singh Gopi Chand v. State, wherein it stated that,
“A law of sedition thought necessary during a period of foreign rule has become inappropriate by the very nature of the change which has come about.” It allowed curtailment of freedom of speech and expression not compatible with the Constitution. The section must be held to have become void.”
However, simultaneously, the Patna High Court failed to subscribe to this view of the Punjab High Court and instead promoted Ali’s dissent from Brij Bhushan. In Kedar Nath, the Supreme Court had occasion to clear the conundrum over sedition. The bench ruled that
“Every state, whatever its form of Government has to be armed with the power to punish those who, by their conduct, jeopardise the safety and stability of the State, or disseminate such feelings of disloyalty as have the tendency to lead to the disruption of the State or to Public” The bench upheld sedition, noting that “any law which is enacted in the interest of public order may be saved from the vice of Constitutional invalidity and was constitutional valid.” Yet again, the court failed to test sedition on the anvil of Section 19(2) and to further create a strict test for its applicability. It was only in Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab that the court stressed on the tendency test which required the words spoken or written to have the tendency to create public disorder, and subsequently acquitted the accused of the charges of sedition.
More recently, in the landmark case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, Justice Nariman followed the proximity test noted by the same court in Ram Manohar Lohia and struck down Section 66A. Differentiating between incitement and advocacy, he stated “mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of Article 19(1)(a). It is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement that Article 19(2) kicks in”.
The Shreya Singhal judgement thus provides a much needed impetus to the growth of free speech and expression. Undoubtedly, it will play a key role in assisting the courts in prospective litigations.
It is well known that India was a laboratory for British Legislators and sedition law is one of the experiments incorporated into our criminal law. Unlike the United States, India does not advance the absolute right theory. Nevertheless, looking at the snowballing charges of sedition in the present era, it is paramount that the Supreme Court takes note of this grim subject and conclusively bursts the clouds of nebulous information. This is of utmost importance considering the fact that it has been ten long years since the United Kingdom has permanently written it down. Simply opposing the government cannot be equated with sedition. Free speech and expression forms the very essence of democracy. Any restriction or threat to restrict the same must be required to qualify strict standards.
Research work and article by Anshritha Rai and Mudit Ahuja.
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PIYUSH GOYAL CALLS UPON STARTUPS TO LEVERAGE ‘DEEP TECH’
Goyal says start ups to build solutions for local & global markets: AI, IoT, Big Data, etc.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal today called upon the Indian industry to aim for raising 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th anniversary of Independence next year.
“We have added 43 unicorns added in 45 weeks, since the start of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ on 12th March, 2021. Let us aim for atleast 75 unicorns in this 75 week period to 75thAnniversary of Independence,” he said, while releasing the NASSCOM Tech Start-up Report 2022.
Goyal said Startup India started a revolution six years ago and today ‘Startup’ has become a common household term. Indian Startups are fast becoming the champions of India Inc’s growth story, he added.
“India has now become the hallmark of a trailblazer & is leaving its mark on global startup landscape. Investments received by Indian startups overshadowed pre-pandemic highs. 2021 will be remembered as the year Indian start-ups delivered on their promise, – fearlessly chasing opportunities across verticals – Edtech, HealthTech & AgriTech amongst others,” he said.
Goyal lauded the ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) industry including the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector for the record Services exports during the last year. “Services Export for Apr-Dec 2021 reached more than $178 bn despite the Covid19 pandemic when the Travel, Hospitality & Tourism sectors were significantly down,” he said.
• “Let us aim for at least 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th Anniversary of Independence”: Piyush Goyal
• Goyal lauds the ITES industry including the BPO sector for the record Services exports during the last year despite the pandemic
• Piyush Goyal says the PM’s interaction with Startups a week ago has supercharged our innovators
• The next “UPI moment” will be the ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) – Goyal
• New India is today being led by new troika of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (ITE), ‘India at 100’ will be renowned as a Startup nation: Goyal
Subhas Chandra Bose statue to be installed in India Gate, announced PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that a grand statue of iconic freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate. This announcement came ahead of the 125th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his statue will be installed at India Gate to honor his contribution to the independence movement.
The Prime Minister further said that Bose’s grand statue will be made of granite and will be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him. “Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary” PM Modi tweeted
“At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate,” PM Modi tweeted on Friday. “This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him.”
The statue will be installed under the grand canopy near which the Amar Jawan Jyothi flickers in remembrance of India’s martyrs. The eternal flame, which has not been extinguished for 50 years, will be put off on Friday, as it will be merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.
The canopy, which was built along with the rest of the grand monument in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, once housed a statue of the former king of England George V. The statue was later moved to Coronation Park in Central Delhi in the mid-1960s.
The announcement was hailed by many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, Union ministers and civil society members.
“Great news for the entire nation as PM @narendramodi Ji has today announced that a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, will be installed at the iconic India Gate, New Delhi. This is a befitting tribute to the legendary Netaji, who gave everything for India’s freedom.” Amit Shah tweeted.
“Netaji is an epitome of India’s true strength & resolve. Congress has left no stone unturned to forget the immortal contributions of India’s brave son. PM @narendramodi’s decision to install Netaji’s statue at India Gate on his 125th Jayanti will inspire our generations to come.” Amit Shah added in his tweet.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 216-foot statue of Ramanujacharya, a 11th century saint and a social reformer, in Hyderabad on February 5. The statue described as the ‘Statue of Equality is located in a 45-acre complex at Shamshabad on the outskirts of the city.
‘US, India should set bold goals to attain $500bn target’, said Keshap
Having achieved a huge success in their bilateral relations, two of the world’s greatest democracies – India and the United States of America should opt in favour of setting bold goals in order to take their relationship to a new high thereby achieving the ambitious target of $500 billion in bilateral trade echoes retired American Diplomat Atul Keshap, who recently became the new president of the US India Business Council (USIBC).
“I think it’s vitally important that we show that democracies can deliver; that the United States and India can be a driver of global growth and a model for prosperity and development in the 21st century,” Keshap said.
During his illustrious career, the veteran diplomat has served in various capacities with the US State Department. He has been the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and has also served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
In 2021, he took over as the Chargé d’affaires of the United States mission to India and has been instrumental in shaping the US-India ties under the Joe Biden administration.
“I feel it’s critically important that we show that open societies powered by a free enterprise can be relevant for their people and can help power the world out of this pandemic. I tend to agree entirely with President Biden and PM Narendra Modi that the US India Partnership is a force for global good and it’s going to have a huge impact on economic growth,” he said.
Keshap feels that USIBC is the podium where he can give his best and help the people from both countries. “We need to move forward on the global trade agenda. We need to ensure the prosperity of the future, especially after this pandemic,” he said.
The 50-year-old diplomat reflected on the vision set by Biden, about potentially having a $500 billion trade in goods and services between the US and India. “That’s a very ambitious number and I believe in it. It is a great idea to try to have ambitious targets, else we are on a standstill” he said.
Having donned the new role recently, Keshap said he wants to help meet that $500 billion bilateral trade goal. “This is where the government and the private sector have to work together hand-in-hand,” he said.
“We have to articulate the benefits and have to convince all our stakeholders that there is value in lowering trade barriers, in creating strong standards and in creating positive ecosystems. There is value in dealing with small technical issues that might be creating a blockage to greater prosperity between our countries,” Keshap said.
Coal crisis: How private sector can power India’s growth
India has been reeling under a coal shortage crisis and the situation got aggravated in October 2021 leading to a lot of concern amongst various stakeholders including government bodies, thermal power plants, industry and investors. The shortages, triggered by global factors, of course with Indian peculiarities, threatened supplies to thermal-based power plants, leading to an alarm.
Recovering from Covid-19-induced reverses, the global economy has rebounded and gathered steam. This was one of the prime reasons why there was an acute shortage of coal and sources of energy, worldwide. Global coal prices have risen by 40 per cent.
Port based Indian power plants normally rely on imports. Given the global conditions, and the sharp rise in coal prices internationally, the power plants are now almost solely dependent on Indian coal. It’s in this context that the coal crisis has been amplified by various stakeholders.
While global factors did contribute, did we fail to take necessary action, over a period of time? To highlight one prominent factor: Why should the Coal India Limited have monopoly over coal mining / supplies? Consider the CIL performance in the last few years: Its output was 606 MT in 2018-2019, 602 MT in 2019-2020, and 596 MT in 2020-2021. Contrast this with various governments’ efforts to ramp up Coal production in the 1992-2010 period.
So, why did Coal India Limited fail to expand capacity? This is one big question that must be debated. It can therefore be argued that CIL’s monopoly on coal extraction and supplies (till very recently) is one of the prime reasons why India’s thermal power plants faced a coal crisis.
India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserve, with around 300 billion tonnes of coal. But it is also true that it imports approximately 250 million tonnes of coal. This is because we don’t mine enough and use our resources optimally.
CIL supplies 80 per cent of India’s coal needs. The demand for coal in India is nearly a billion tonnes a year, and the supply is below 800 million tonnes.
Unfortunately, based on then CAG Vinod Rai’s miscalculations and the Notional Loss theory, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks in September 2014. Private players were not given a patient hearing on the issue. Rather than encouraging them, the private sector got punished unfairly for its efforts to strengthen the economy through coal mining. If 100 out of 214 of those mines were functional and each one was producing, say, 4 mtpa of Coal, India today would be a net exporter, not importer, of Coal.
Rai’s theory and the Supreme Court judgment had devastating consequences. The coal production in the country took a hit. The country’s GDP declined by almost 1 per cent. Millions of jobs were lost. NPAs of banks with exposure to power, steel and mining sector rose exponentially. Such is Rai’s credibility that he recently tendered an apology to a Congress leader, who, Rai claimed in his book, “requested him to remove then PM Manmohan Singh’s name from the coal scam”. Taking a cue, if someone sues Rai for his Coal Scam theory and numbers, would he be able to defend his report in court?
Against the recommendations of CAG of incentivizing good performers who produce coal, the Supreme Court imposed an additional levy of 295 rupees per ton on the coal extracted from operational mines retrospectively from 1993. The private miners were directed to deposit more than Rs. 9000 crore as penalty.
The stagnating CIL coal output should be seen in this background. Being a monopoly, CIL could have been a saviour for the nation. CIL however neither ramped up production nor invested in technology or expansion of new mines.
In 2020, in a bold and much welcome development, the Union Government opened up commercial coal mining, thus ending Coal India’s monopoly. PM Modi said that he wanted India to be a net exporter of coal, as he set ambitious targets.
A lesson from the recent crisis is this – the CIL monopoly, along with the no-entry sign for the private sector, harmed the country.
There are lessons to be drawn from the opening up of the aviation sector for the recent coal crisis episode. With a series of measures, the aviation sector was opened up, with the Air India privatisation being the latest example. The economy, the nation and consumer benefitted. When sectors as diverse as Steel, Infrastructure and Healthcare were unshackled, the end consumer, the economy and the nation benefitted.
Similarly, if the private sector in coal mining would have been encouraged consistently, and ill-advised measures like cancellation of coal blocks not taken, the coal situation would not have come to such a pass. In 2014, the private sector was said to be accounting for 90 million tons of coal – a substantial figure. Instead of getting encouraged, the private sector had to fight protracted court cases and spend its time wastefully.
There’s a consensus that Coal would continue to power economic growth for a country like India for the next two decades. It’s important that this abundantly-available natural resource is used optimally. The Private Sector can play a key role here.
The Government has shown intent and commitment. It’s time for all the stakeholders to ensure that the country faces no shortage of Coal hereafter. It’s time we all learnt our lessons and ensure that Coal and Mining booms and fires India’s growth march.
eGrocers seize the day as orders rise 40% amid third wave
In the ongoing third wave of Covid-19 one industry tops it all with high revenue generation based on more than enough orders to double their size of operation. eGrocers are riding the Corona wave high with record number of orders rising in the third wave and inevitably increasing the rate of their operations. Since December the online grocer Blinkit has added 200 “dark stores” that are designed only for deliveries in ten minutes.The company now plans to take the number to 1000 by March. Reliance owned MilkBasket is more than doubling its warehousing capacity to almost 350,000 sq ft in NCR to cater to 1,50,000 orders a day, double the current order size. In the midst of the growing Covid-19 cases while the brick and mortar retailers and dine-in restaurants are holding out on their expansion plans, online grocers like Blinkit and MilkBasket are going all out on aggressively pushing to take advantage of the growing demand for quick online deliveries. Even at the time of the first and second wave the online grocers had been in the works to expand their operations as millions of Indians gravitated to digital commerce. However the ongoing third wave has made the push on market capitalisation more aggressive and ambitious. “One thing has changed in this wave that our pace of expansion has doubled,” said Rohit Sharma head of supply chain at Blinkit.
The main rival of Blinkit, Tata owned BigBasket is planning to launch BB Now, its express delivery service of delivering products in 10-20 minutes, joining the growing space of quick commerce. Currently Blinkit, Swiggy’s Instamart, Dunzo and Zepto are active in that space. T K Balakumar, chief operating officer at Big Basket said his company is planning to increase its existing warehousing capacity by 40%. They are also planning to open more than 300 dark stores in the coming financial year starting April.
During the ongoing Covid wave the orders in various cities have gone up by 30-40%, said the online grocers. Milkbasket is currently catering to about 70,000 orders per day in the NCR. Its new 150,000 sq ft warehouse in the region will be ready by next month. “There is excess demand. They are already running 110% of capacity,” said a person familiar with MilkBaskets’ plans. MilkBasket operates in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai and is set to enter Jaipur later this month.
India-assisted projects launched for Mauritius by PMs Modi and Jugnauth
During a virtual event on January 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly opened an India-assisted social housing project in Mauritius. The two leaders also opened a civil service college and an 8-MW solar power project in Mauritius, both of which are being funded by India, as per the external affairs ministry. According to the ministry, a bilateral agreement for the implementation of modest development projects was exchanged, as well as an agreement to grant a $190 million line of credit from India to Mauritius for the Metro Express Project and other infrastructure projects. The news follows Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour to Indian Ocean countries like Sri Lanka, Comoros, and the Maldives, during which the Chinese side disclosed a number of business initiatives. Mauritius is an important aspect of India’s “Neighbourhood First” strategy, with New Delhi supporting a variety of projects in the African island nation. India supplied immunizations and medical supplies to Mauritius during the initial stages of the Covid-19 outbreak.. Last February, India, and Mauritius signed a free trade agreement aimed at making the island nation a regional center for Indian investments, and New Delhi offered a $100 million line of credit to cover defense gear purchases. Both governments decided to lease a Dornier plane and a Dhruv advanced light chopper to monitor Mauritius’ exclusive economic zone at the time.The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Pact (CECPA) between India and Mauritius was the country’s first free trade agreement with an African nation.
METRO EXPRESS PROJECT
PM Modi and his Mauritian counterpart Jugnauth jointly launched phase-I of the rail transportation line between India and Mauritius in 2019. The Light Rail Transit System Project represents a watershed moment in Indo-Mauritian ties, delivering significant economic benefits to both countries. In addition, the project provided engineering and technical skill development possibilities for the island nation. According to Rajeev Jyoti, Chief Executive of L&T, the construction company that won the contract from the Government of Mauritius, the large-scale investment also established India’s credibility in the international railway market. The first phase comprised the construction of a 26-kilometer railway with 19 stations connecting Curepipe and Immigration Square in Port Louis. Two of the stations were described as cutting-edge. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius.
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