Mumbai: People trying to bring change in government through legal means will not face sedition charge in Maharashtra, but those attempting to bring into "hatred or contempt, dissatisfaction and provoking violence" against the central or state government will be slapped with sedition charges.
These provisions are part of a fresh set of guidelines issued to police by the Maharashtra government with regard to invocation of the IPC Section (124-A) pertaining to sedition.
The circular containing these guidelines says sedition clause can be invoked against "whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation, is critical of politicians, elected representatives belonging to the government".
They were issued in compliance with an assurance given to the Bombay High Court by state government while dropping sedition charge against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, arrested in 2012 for drawing cartoons that allegedly insulted the national emblem and Parliament.
The guidelines were issued on August 27 in accordance with assurance in the HC that the government would come out with a circular indicating limitations and parameters of 124-A of IPC, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told PTI.
"Powers to invoke different Sections of IPC are with the station officer. Government can issue guidelines, hence, we have done so to avoid confusion among different police stations," he said today.
The circular asks police to bear in mind that the sedition clause of IPC can be invoked against 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, dissatisfaction and provoking violence" against the central or state government.
However, the section 124-A will not be invoked against those trying to bring change in government through legal means without hatred and contempt, it said.
The circular drew flak from the Opposition parties. Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde of NCP said the move indicated an "Emergency-like" situation, while Congress leader Narayan Rane said his party was seeking legal opinion to proceed against the government's decision.
Rane said the circular has been issued to prevent the media from doing its duty of taking the government to task on its failures and also to stop Opposition from highlighting inept handling of drought situation in parts of the state.
However, a Home Department official said the circular clearly mentions that "criticism or expressing dissent through legal means" will not attract sedition charge.
"This government has come to power on false promises. Isn't this treason?" Rane, a former Chief Minister, said.
"The BJP-led government has failed to perform and hence it is trying to use this circular to prevent any backlash against its failures," alleged Vikhe Patil, Congress Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly.
Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said, "the circular is silent on when to enforce the provisions of sedition section. There is a mere translation of the existing section. The reference to politicians and individuals in government has been incorporated by the state Government."