Deepak Gupta: A man with a Voice Of Dissent
Issue 12 | September 06, 2020
Sedition, widely associated with public disarray, is often thought of as an offence against public peace and law and order. In India, sedition is a criminal offence under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Under the law, the offence could attract either imprisonment for up to three years or even for life. The provision, along with imprisonment, also accords the courts the power to impose a fine on the offender. The global scenario of sedition, though, is quite a bit contrasting. Many countries have altogether done away with their sedition laws to make way for the freedom of expression of their citizens. In this fast-paced era of development, the significance of human rights is not unrevealed anymore. Respecting these rights, countless countries –New Zealand, The Republic of Korea, etc.– have given more weightage and significance to public dissent and criticism than to their stringent laws of sedition.
There were many who voiced against the act of mistaking criticism and disagreement for sedition in India, but the one who was the loudest was Justice Deepak Gupta. Deepak Gupta, a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, in a speech in Sep. 2019 (at a workshop organized by the Praleen Public Charitable Trust and Lecture Committee in Ahmedabad) expressed how attempting to stifle dissent and criticism can turn India into “a police state”.
Deepak Gupta is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India and former Chief Justice of Tripura High Court and Chhattisgarh High Court. He was born in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. On completing his schooling from St. Edward’s School, Shimla, he went on to complete his LL.B. from the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. He took oath as a judge in 2004.
In his recent speech at the workshop, Deepak Gupta comprehensively talked about the interplay between the Right to freedom of speech and expression and the law of sedition in India. He said that though democracy is based on majoritarianism, the minority has the right to express its views. Though in a democracy, the elected government has the right to govern (due to it gaining the majority of votes), it is unfair to say that the government represents the voice of all the citizens.
Deepak’s contributions to the Indian judiciary system have been exceptional. He has always been advocating the fundamental rights of individuals. According to Deepak, one of the most important aspects of a democratic country is that the citizens of the country should not have any fear of the government. He thinks that if views of disapproval and disfavour do not incite violence, and are expressed in a sophisticated and civilized manner, the unnecessary law of sedition must not attract.
Laws like this instill fear in the hearts of the citizens who just want their views to reach out to the wider audience, and it is unjust to hold the mere expression of their views against them. Additionally, Deepak thinks that our country would be a tremendously better place to live if the inhabitants could express their dissent openly and without any fear of prosecution or social media. Deepak believes that this gallantry and fearlessness –in the minds and hearts of the citizens– is all the more important for a country like ours that boasts of living by the Rule of Natural Justice and the Rule of Law.