Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on October 10 slammed Delhi Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena's move of sanctioning the prosecution of author Arundhati Roy in a 2010 case related to provocative speeches, saying the "LG and his masters" have no place in their regime for tolerance or forbearance.
The former Home Minister said there was no justification in 2010 to register the case against Ms. Roy on the charge of sedition and there is no justification now to sanction prosecution against her.
His remarks came after Mr. Saxena accorded sanction to prosecute Ms. Roy and a former Kashmiri professor in the 2010 case related to provocative speeches allegedly made at a conference in New Delhi, Raj Niwas officials said.
The FIR against Ms. Roy and former professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain was registered following orders from the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, New Delhi, they said.
Reacting to the development, Mr. Chidambaram said, "I stand by what I said in 2010 in a speech by Ms. Arundhati Roy, the well-known writer and journalist." "There was no justification then to register a case against her on the charge of sedition. There is no justification now to sanction prosecution against her," he said on X.
The law on sedition has been explained by the Supreme Court on more than one occasion, he noted.
A speech that does not directly incite violence will not amount to sedition, the Congress leader said.
When speeches are delivered, however much others may disagree with those, the State must show tolerance and forbearance, he added.
"I stand by free speech and against the colonial law of sedition. Section 124A has been misused often and hence it must be scrapped," Mr. Chidambaram asserted.
"There are other provisions of law that are adequate to deal with incitement to violence. It is obvious that the LG (and his masters) have no place in their regime for tolerance or forbearance; or for that matter the essentials of democracy," he said in his long post on the microblogging website.
Ms. Roy and Mr. Hussain were charged under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (public mischief through statements) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Under section 196(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a valid sanction for prosecution from a state government is a prerequisite for certain offences, such as hate speech, hurting religious sentiments, hate crimes, sedition, waging war against the State and promoting enmity.
Two other accused— Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Delhi University lecturer Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani, who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in the Parliament attack case on technical grounds, died in the meantime.
Sushil Pandit, a social activist from Kashmir, filed a complaint on October 28, 2010 at the Tilak Marg police station in Delhi, alleging that several people made "provocative speeches" at a conference organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners under the banner "Azadi — The Only Way" on October 21 of that year.
Mr. Pandit had alleged that the participants at the conference discussed and propagated the "separation of Kashmir from India".
He later filed a complaint before the metropolitan magistrate's court. The FIR in the case was registered on November 29, 2010 for several offences, including sedition and under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.