Disagree, Don’t Label

It is not anti-national to denounce a court judgment or ask for azaadi for Kashmir.

Written by Shanti Bhushan | Updated: February 25, 2016 12:03 am
Delhi Police personnel at Parliament Street, minutes before hundreds of JNU students, teachers, artists and leaders marched into the area Thursday. (Express Photo Tashi Tobgyal) I may not agree with the view of azaadi for Kashmir, but there is nothing anti-national in that demand. (Express Photo Tashi Tobgyal)

A big debate is raging in the country today on what acts are anti-national and can be denounced even though they might not be punishable under the law.

On one side of the spectrum, we are witnessing Jat agitators in Haryana burning cars, buses, railway bogies and even buildings to fuel their demand for reservation. Are these activities not anti-national?

On the other side, there are allegations that some Jawaharlal Nehru University students raised slogans inside the JNU premises on the third anniversary of Afzal Guru’s hanging denouncing his execution. The JNU students deny the allegation against them, and insist that they were not party to any such sloganeering, and that these slogans were, in fact, raised by some outsiders who were students from Kashmir. I shall not go into this controversy and only consider the action of whoever raised the slogans and answer the question on whether the raising of such slogans can by itself be regarded as an anti-national act.

There is considerable doubt about what slogans were actually raised in view of the doctored videos that were played on television channels. However, let us assume that some of the slogans raised were asking for azaadi for Kashmir, and denouncing the Supreme Court judgment convicting Afzal Guru.

It is settled law that the fundamental rights conferred on every citizen include the right to criticise even a judgment of the Supreme Court and claim that, in one’s opinion, the judgment is incorrect. In saying so, the citizen is exercising her right and cannot be faulted in law. One may or may not agree with her views. In fact, I myself strongly disagree with the view that the conviction of Afzal Guru by the Supreme Court of Prevention of Terrorism Act offences was wrong, but would still concede the right of the other person to express her own view.

However, so far as the infliction of the death sentence on Afzal Guru by the Supreme Court is concerned, I am myself of the view that while his conviction as a conspirator in a terrorist offence was correct, the death sentence awarded was not only incorrect, but also quite illegal. There is a section in the Prevention of Terrorism Act that says that if any provision of the act is inconsistent with the Indian Penal Code, the provision in the Prevention of Terrorism Act will prevail. Now, in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the maximum sentence for a conspirator is imprisonment for life, not death. As Afzal Guru was not party to the attack on Parliament but alleged only to be party to the conspiracy, he could only be sentenced to imprisonment for life and the death sentence to him was wholly illegal.

Also, I may not agree with the view of azaadi for Kashmir, but there is nothing anti-national in that demand. In many places, the issue of reorganisation of the country has been discussed and decided democratically and peacefully. These include Great Britain and Canada in the recent past. Other countries, such as Bangladesh and Yugoslavia, where such issues were not allowed to be peacefully and democratically settled, have had violent and bloody partitions.

In this view of the matter, a calm and cool consideration would lead to the conclusion that while one may disagree with the slogans, there is nothing anti-national in being party to the slogan denouncing the Supreme Court judgment or asking for azaadi for Kashmir.

It is the principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution of the right to life, liberty and freedom of speech and expression that define our nation, and any act that threatens these great principles is anti-national.

I would also like to add that the peaceful atmosphere in the country should not be spoilt by manufacturing a frenzied one. The dangers in that path must be recognised immediately, and tempers must be cooled.

However, acts like the destruction of life and property in Haryana are clearly anti-national and must be stopped with a heavy hand.

The writer, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court, was Union law minister from 1977-79

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First Published on: February 25, 2016 12:01 am
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    freethinker
    Feb 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm
    Whether it is politicians, students, or the mes of India agitating for slowly leading the country into ever increasing darkness, three facts are certain. India does not have a bright future. Secondly the people of India FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE are selfish and want to use democracy for their own selfish ends and not for the common good which is what democracy is all about and thirdly India does not have a single political leader with a vision and the courage of conviction to follow that vision. INDIA DOES NOT NEED ENEMIES. IT IS STRANGULATING ITSELF SLOWLY.
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      IslamForFoooools
      Feb 25, 2016 at 3:43 am
      All current political dramas, articles against Hindus in India shows, how weak and vulnerable Hindus are to genocide by Islamists and correspondent terrorists. Hindus must stop being selfish and self centered and wage war against jihad of congressi and cpim and Muslim terrorists
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        IslamForFoooools
        Feb 25, 2016 at 4:22 am
        Hindus stop being selfish and start weaponisd war against Hindu enemies or else be ready to be genocided by muslims
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          IslamForFoooools
          Feb 25, 2016 at 3:44 am
          Hindus will die. And genocided same way Jews were genocided by hitler. Here Muslims will do same with Hindus with the help of aap, congress, cpim, so, tmc, ncp, mim and all pro jihadi and anti Hindu parties
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            IslamForFoooools
            Feb 25, 2016 at 2:00 am
            India will be ruins in next few decades if Hindus keep watching anti national and anti Hindu activities like this like an impotent creature. Wage dharmayudh against jihadists and terrorists like cpim, Muslims, congressi, aaptards tmc ncp sp et al
            Reply
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              IslamForFoooools
              Feb 25, 2016 at 4:16 am
              Isis musselman terrorist spotted
              Reply
              1. I
                IslamForFoooools
                Feb 25, 2016 at 4:21 am
                Muslim speaking of sanity when u follow insane Koran of pagal mohemmed
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                1. I
                  IslamForFoooools
                  Feb 25, 2016 at 3:45 am
                  Only bal Thakre like people can save Hindus and india
                  Reply
                  1. I
                    IslamForFoooools
                    Feb 25, 2016 at 2:08 am
                    Slaughtering Indian jurnos on streets of India is only way to save Hinduism and Hindustan as a country, slaughter them without mercy
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                      IslamForFoooools
                      Feb 25, 2016 at 1:56 am
                      These anti nationals are talking about breaking India into pieces and poor Hindus keep watching like helpless creatures. No wonder stani Hindus were genocided by Muslims. Wake up Hindus wage war against those who wage war against Hinduism and Hindustan. Kil them, teach lesson by killing these terrorists like this shanti bhushan. Our soldiers are dying every day in hands of Muslim terrorists and these anti national congress is and aaptards are wishing Indias death. I say kil them in public, make sure they are dead before u leave body. Kil them, no other option.
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                        IslamForFoooools
                        Feb 25, 2016 at 4:16 am
                        U seem Koran slave Isis ideology following Arab slave who can throw their daughters under rich Arabs for money as taught by your pedophile pop at Mohammed and terrorist biyach allah
                        Reply
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                          Sivaramakrishnan
                          Feb 25, 2016 at 11:16 am
                          These guys are sitting happily over their huge stash of money earned through their dubious profession called "Law" and also on the comfort and security provided by our soldiers who battle it out in Kashmir by laying their life for the country. These guys do not even have the right to talk about freedom let alone free speach.
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                            Me Marathi
                            Feb 25, 2016 at 5:21 pm
                            Freedom for Kashmir!!!
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                              Summur
                              Feb 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm
                              I think you need a broader atude to understand and then shooting off like what have been shown by this organised mafia , where journalist and students are beaten by lawyers of the SC and what one can expect .? Please brush up your gles and go through Canada's consution acts 1982 where all provinces signed and why Quebec refused to sign , Quebec has its own juridical legal system , pertaining to the justice system and Quebec Act , Quebec has special Status , method to deal with Quebec 's distinct culture and powers so that it's district culture could be protected , the authorities governing Canada have explicitly recognized that Quebec " Quebec is not a province / State like the others" and was awarded special consution protection , major universities of all over world have reacted on the intrusion of police into theJNU campus , what are you talking about , All major Muslim countries had shown the depth of tolerance and patience and did not react on the drawing cartoons of the prophet . As I said the only ray of hope for India to sustained the diversity to stop it moving towards fanatic and extremist ism and proclaim to remain on the path of secular or the day is not far where a storm can been seen heading
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                                Summur
                                Feb 25, 2016 at 11:15 pm
                                I totally agree with you , raising few anti-national slogans or expressing your view on Afzal Guru's death sentence should not be tagged as anti-national , freedom of expression and speech that's every citizen fundamental right , we are not reviving dictatorship regime here or terror expressing your views, Quebec still don't recognize as being part of Canada, but they are not being terrorize or beaten outside the supreme court to justify their views , what's wrong if there are slogans like "Azadi for Kashmir and when fact is that it is a unresolved dispute and there has to be solution for this disputed region
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                                  Summur
                                  Feb 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm
                                  Yes everyone of us has a different views and opinions to look at things and that's what we call freedom of expression and speech , each of us can have his/ her own interpretation to relate . I do agree that no one has a right to hurt feelings of others in any form , but they way the students have been tagged and the media is acting as judiciary and goons who were SC lawyers displa publicly they belong to a powerfull mafia having police force behind them who are suppose to give protection to weaker
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                                    Yami
                                    Feb 25, 2016 at 12:11 am
                                    Dear bhushan let us send you to Kashmir without any security and preach all this to the terrorists who kill our soldiers
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                                      Yami
                                      Feb 25, 2016 at 12:08 am
                                      This fossil is suffering from senile dementia and should receive shock therapy to brain. He is talking Naxal shut when hundreds of Indian soldiers die every year protecting Kashmir from terrorism
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                                        Yami
                                        Feb 25, 2016 at 12:10 am
                                        This is a joker from AAp speaking. Shows the mentality of Kejriwal and his stooges
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                                          Yami
                                          Feb 25, 2016 at 12:12 am
                                          Typical AAP mentality. Always siding with the antinationals and Naxalits
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                                            Aditya Gaiha
                                            Feb 24, 2016 at 7:37 pm
                                            Mr Bhushan it is contempt of court to call a court ordered hanging as 'judicial killing'. It is also sedition and anti national to call for the vivisection of the country. You need to relearn your law lessons.
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