Citizens have right to criticise revocation of Article 370, says Supreme Court

The apex court quashes FIR accusing a college professor in Maharashtra of spreading enmity and disharmony by terming the abrogation of Article 370 a “black day”

March 07, 2024 11:51 pm | Updated March 08, 2024 07:28 am IST - NEW DELHI

Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court on March 7 quashed an FIR accusing a college professor in Maharashtra of spreading enmity and disharmony by terming the abrogation of Article 370 a “black day” and wishing “happy independence” to the people of Pakistan in a WhatsApp group of faculty and parents.

“Describing the day the abrogation happened as a ‘Black Day’ is an expression of protest and anguish. The right to dissent in a lawful manner must be treated as a part of the right to lead a dignified and meaningful life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” Justice A.S. Oka, heading a Division Bench, observed in the judgment.

Justice Oka said a “simple protest” registered by the professor, Javed Ahmed Hajam, against the decision to abrogate Article 370 cannot be used by the police to lodge a case under Section 153A (promoting enmity among different classes of people) of the Indian Penal Code.

Supreme Court’s verdict upholding the abrogation of Article 370 | Explained

To invoke Section 153A, the judgment said, there should have been an intention to promote feelings of enmity or hatred among different classes of people. The provision should not be used to silence dissent, it noted.

“The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression. Every citizen has the right to offer criticism of the action of abrogation of Article 370 or, for that matter, every decision of the state. He has the right to say he is unhappy with any decision of the state,” Justice Oka underscored.

On Mr. Hajam, who is basically from Jammu and Kashmir but teaching at the Sanjay Ghodawat College in Kolhapur, wishing the people of Pakistan, the court said it was only a gesture of goodwill.

“Every citizen has the right to extend good wishes to the citizens of the other countries on their respective Independence Days. If a citizen of India extends good wishes to the citizens of Pakistan on August 14, which is their Independence Day, there is nothing wrong with it. It is a gesture of goodwill,” Justice Oka reasoned.

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