Criticising the government is not sedition: Soli Sorabjee

Neelu Vyas

solisorabjeeFormer Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee has slammed the NDA government and the enforcement agencies for mishandling the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus row for which students have been charged with sedition.

Speaking to Rajya Sabha TV, Sorabjee goes on to say that the definition of sedition law is misplaced in India because criticising the government cannot amount to sedition unless it incites violence.

Condemning the hooliganism by the lawyers at the Patiala House Court, Sorabjee calls for strict punitive action against them. He also says that the Bar Council should also act against them.

Sorabjee accused all political parties of practising pseudo-nationalism and also unnecessarily dragging the students in the controversy.

Here are some excerpts:

Have the political parties and the people of India got their definition of nationalism misplaced somewhere? 

The sedition law was enacted long ago and many national leaders have been prosecuted for sedition. But criticism of the government is not sedition.

Do you think that the JNU case has been mishandled by the government?

The police does not understand sedition. Facts are established by the law, not by lawyers. Supreme Court is spot on with sedition judgement but the government could have handled it better. Criticism of the government cannot be called sedition and that’s where the government and the enforcement agencies are going wrong.

What do you think provoked the lawyers at Patiala House court to resort to violence? 

All people in black coats are not lawyers. The guilt of the attackers will be determined by the court of law. There is need for swift action in the case and the Bar Council must act against these lawyers.

Do you think an ideological fight is being played out between the Congress, BJP and the Left in the garb of the JNU row?

JNU case was not properly handled. Parties like to make a mess of the situation. It’s a pseudo-ideological fight between political parties.  There was no need to drag the students in and call them anti-national. Let the courts do their job, that’s not for the political parties to decide.

Do you think the media played the role of the judge and the hangman in the JNU row? 

Media must self-regulate. It always plays the role of a judge and a hangman but its freedom also has to be preserved. They have the right to report as they see but with caution. I think SC should lay down law of sedition clearly and also put out limits to free speech.

(You can watch the entire interview on To The Point at 10 pm tonight and 10.30 am on Thursday morning, only on Rajya Sabha TV)