The arrest and detention of a 25-year old man accused of sedition for allegedly disrespecting India’s national symbols is a reminder of how archaic laws continue to be used to curb free speech in India, Amnesty International India said today.
On 20 August 2014, police in Kerala arrested Salman M. for allegedly making catcalls and not standing up when India’s national anthem was being played at a cinema two days earlier. He was accused of sedition, insulting the Indian national flag and Constitution, and preventing the singing of the national anthem.
Salman M. was also accused under section 66A of India’s Information Technology Act for allegedly publishing abusive social media posts about Independence Day on 15 August. A Thiruvananthapuram court denied him bail on 25 August. He could face a life sentence if convicted.
“A criminal charge for such conduct, even if some might regard it as offensive, is completely unwarranted,” said Shailesh Rai, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India. “Nobody should have to go to prison merely because they are accused of causing offense.”