In a rare conviction for sedition, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko was sentenced to a prison term of one year by a special court for elected representatives in Chennai on Friday for a speech he had made in July 2009 .
Mr. Vaiko is set to file his nomination papers for a Rajya Sabha seat from Tamil Nadu. The conviction will not disqualify him from the electoral contest, as he has been sentenced only to a one-year term. Only a sentence of two years and above will attract disqualification provisions under the Representation of the People Act.
Sedition, or Section 124A of the IPC, is not one of the offences that entail disqualification, regardless of the length of the prison term.
Mr. Vaiko made the speech in question on July 15, 2009, at a function to launch the Tamil version of his book I Accuse , a compilation of letters he had written to the Prime Minister about the alleged “betrayal” by the Centre in “aiding” Sri Lanka in committing “genocide” against thousands of Tamils during the last years of the war against the LTTE. He was severely critical of the regimes of the day at the Centre and in the State. In his speech he asked Tamil youth to support the formation of ‘Tamil Eelam.’
J. Shanthi, special court judge said at the conclusion of the trial that the charge of sedition had been proved.
She held that given the position of the accused in society, his speech could influence the people. She noted that the book was released and a “hate message” delivered just two months after the death of LTTE leader V. Prabakaran. Given the volatile mood of those days, there was danger to the security of the State and Central governments then.
She noted that Mr. Vaiko had said the LTTE had been defeated because of the Indian government’s betrayal. “Section 124 A IPC also attracts intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance to law and order or incitement to violence... Whether that act resulted in violence is immaterial. The charge under Section 124 A IPC stands proved.” The judge also imposed a ₹10,000 fine.