New York: An international rights group today demanded the repealing of a colonial-era law that was enforced to arrest a 54-year-old folk singer on charges of sedition and writing songs critical of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for not banning liquor sales.
‘Comrade’ S Kovan, Tiruchirappalli district functionary of art and literary outfit Makkal Kalai Ilakkiya Kazhagam, was arrested under various sections of the IPC on Friday.
He was arrested for writing songs that criticised the Jayalalithaa government for allegedly profiting from state-run liquor shops at the expense of the poor.
The Indian government should enforce Supreme Court limitations on the colonial-era sedition law and repeal the measure, which is regularly abused by local authorities to silence peaceful dissent, Human Rights Watch said.
“The police appear to have arrested Kovan for sedition in a misguided attempt to shield the chief minister from criticism,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“A law that is repeatedly used to arrest singers, cartoonists, and writers has no place in a democracy – and should be repealed.”
The alleged defamatory songs were uploaded on some Tamil websites and have been widely shared social networks such as WhatsApp.
Koyan’s family alleged that plainclothes police officers, who refused to show identification, came in the middle of the night to arrest Kovan. Local rights groups and opposition political parties have condemned Kovan’s arrest.
If convicted on the sedition charge, Kovan could face up to life in prison. He has also been charged with promoting enmity between various social groups.
The sedition law has been misused in many other cases, Human Rights Watch said.
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