A vibrant democracy, India abides by the Constitution on individual rights and aspirations

The Washington Post in a recent article titled ‘India’s downgraded and degraded democracy’ has shown its concern about India’s democratic setup. The article, based on the survey of a US government funded non-profit organisation, stated that India is only partly free under the current leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The article talks about various actions that the Indian government have taken against individuals and institutions in the recent past. It talks about shutting down of operations by Amnesty International, the human rights group whose movable properties worth Rs 17.66 crore were attached by the country’s Enforcement Directorate last month in connection with a money laundering case.

Merely because an organisation claims to be the flag bearer of Human Rights, it does not mean it should be absolved of serious crimes like money laundering. It is the duty of the government to attach any such property that, according to its investigation, is proceeds of crime.

A legal system of the country requires punishment to individuals or entities for any action which is against the law regardless of the position or status that they hold in the society.

Merely because an organisation claims to undertake human rights activities does not immune it from actions such as money laundering. The author again goes on to mention actors such as Tapsee Pannu and Anurag Kashyap being raided by the Income Tax Department.

The author of The Washington Post’s article tries to present a narrative that these individuals were raided because they criticized the government. While maintaining so, she has apparently forgotten that IT raids on these Bollywood personalities were not because of their criticism of the government, but because of the fact that financial irregularities were detected with their companies.

The Income Tax Department had reportedly recovered and found discrepancies of Rs. 5 crore from Tapsee Pannu, 20 crore from Anurag Kashyap and overall of 600 Cr from Phantom Films which was also owned by Anurag Kashyap.

It has to be understood that merely linking a totally unrelated act such as an IT raid to the criticism of the government and trying to establish that the democracy in the country is dying is nothing but a method to spread propaganda. This is nowhere close to journalism or the spirit of journalism.

Moving on to the definition of Sedition- “Sec 124A defines sedition as “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, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government shall be punishable with Life Imprisonment.” There are various judgments of the Supreme Court such as Balwant Singh and Ors vs State of Punjab 1995(3)SCC214, Kedar Nath v State of Bihar, etc which state that the essential for the act of sedition are the following:

1. Any words, which can be either written or spoken, or signs which include placards/posters (visible representation)

2. Must bring hatred/contempt/disaffection against the Indian Government

3. Must result in ‘imminent violence’ or public disorder.

As far as Disha Ravi’s case is concerned the case was filed as her act fulfilled all the three abovementioned conditions. The ‘toolkit’ not only had visible representations against the government including acts to disrupt the same, but also resulted in massive protests leading to loss of life and destruction of property worth 80 crores.

It is very important here to mention that the author of the article in The Washington Post has very little knowledge of law. Disha Ravi has merely been let out on bail but has not been acquitted from her said actions.

The author seems to celebrate the order and accuse the government as though the accused was declared absolutely innocent by the court. The trial is still pending and if the accused is found guilty the same newspaper and the very same author will release another article stating how democracy is dead because according to them democracy means an absolute right to create riot and destroy public property because it falls under their freedom of expression.

“Your freedom ends when the other person’s freedom begins” this famous quote by Alfred George has been reinstated by our courts in many judgments including the latest ‘Tandav’ controversy (Aparna Purohit vs State of UP [SLP 1983/2021]) that the freedom of speech and expression is not absolute and it has its limitations.

One such being public order and morality. The article also says that the United Nations criticises the way India is running, but the very same UN has time and again appreciated the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for having a flawless system of governance and improving the country’s international position. The WHO, WTO, World Bank, UNEP, ECOSOC and various committees of the UN and leading entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates appreciate and praise the Prime Minister of India for his work.

As long as we are looking at US based NGOs and their ratings to decide whether India has an efficient government and whether it’s truly democratic, we would remain puppets in the hands of certain agenda based foreign governments and international NGOs.

Morning Consult, a US based firm which collects approval ratings of various world leaders, states that PM Modi’s approval ratings are the highest in the world, which means the people of India and other countries are impressed and are happy with him.

It is important to understand that the real judge of the government and democracy is Indian public, and not some agenda-driven NGOs. If the people of India have overwhelmingly supported the present government and its style of governance, there is no reason why we should look at other countries and NGOs for their approval. Elections are the true test of democracy and PM Modi has twice shown that he has overwhelming approval from the Indian public and that’s what matters at the end.

(Author is a research fellow at New Delhi-based Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation; views expressed are his personal)