Sedition charge: HC grants bail to Sikha Sarma

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, April 25: The Gauhati High Court has granted bail to 48-year-old writer Sikha Sarma, who was arrested on April 6 on charges of sedition and other offences for an alleged Facebook post on security forces after 22 personnel were killed in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.

Sarma, known to be vocal on social media, in an FB post on April 5 maligned and disregarded the sacrifice of martyrs by urging the ‘media’ not to generate public sentiments in their favour and not to term them as  ‘swahids’ as they are drawing salary for the services they are providing to the nation.

Sikha Sarma in her Facebook post wrote, “A person who draws salary for his service cannot be considered a martyr/swahid if he dies on duty. If it is so, then, an electrical worker who dies in an electric shock should also be considered a martyr. News media, do not make the public emotional.”

“On scrutiny of the case diary, it is noticed that the accused petitioner prima facie expressed her personal views on the use of the term ‘swahid/martyr’ through in respect of 22 brave hearts/patriot soldiers including 2 such soldiers from the state, who laid their lives in action or killed on duty, which evoked widespread criticism on social networking platforms,” the Bench of Justice Ajit Borthakur said in the order.

The court observed that the prima facie grounds for arrest of the accused petitioner seem to have basically arisen out of the offence of ‘sedition’, which is made punishable under the IPC.

It further noted that the offence of ‘sedition’ contemplates three ingredients – that the accused did speak, write, make signs or representations or some other acts; that the accused brought or attempted to bring into hatred or contempt or excited or attempted to excite disaffection thereby; and that the said hatred, contempt or disaffection was towards the government established by law.

“This section of the IPC, it may be pointed out, is not inconsistent with the fundamental right of freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and as such, the intention of the offender has to be gathered from the language used,” the court order said.

Taking note of the apprehension of the threat to health of the prisoners due to the ongoing second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the court observed that further continuation of detention of the accused petitioner, who is a woman, may not be necessary in the interest of the ongoing investigation.

The court released her on bail of Rs 30,000 with conditions, directing her to refrain from committing any similar offence in future of which she is accused or suspected of.

 

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