The genetically modified hemp will possess only .3 to 1 percent potency. Which means the psychoactive effect of the drug will be absent. Apparently, these plants will be of no use to the drug users.
Shimla: These days, the debate over legalizing the cultivation of cannabis plants (hemp)in Himachal Pradesh has brought the attention of the people to the treasure nature has endowed them with – cannabis. Not because it gets you high but for the potential of revolutionizing the economy of the State, which is currently dependent mainly on apple production.
Don’t think this advocacy of cannabis legalisation is our own. All these facts are given in support of legalization in a petition filed by advocate Deven Khanna in the High Court of Himachal Pradesh. Mr. Shrawan Dogra is also the advocate for the petitioner.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel have also asked the State and Centre government to provide its response within four weeks.
What made us highlight the debate is that the petitioner has given a number of authentic references including medical journals, both national and international authoritative publications, government websites, judgments and various other articles and reports.
Further, there is already a provision to permit cultivation of industrial hemp.
Referring to the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the petitioner argues that the Indian law permits the mass cultivation of hemp for horticultural and industrial use. However, it was the government that has failed to avail it for the socio-economic growth of the farming community.
The Section 10 of the said Act bestows the state governments the power to decide the limits within which licenses can granted for its cultivation. Unfortunately, Himachal never used the provision, and did not formulate any regulation or rules to facilitate the medical or industrial use of the plant,
the petitioner Deshinder Khanna told Himachal Watcher.
The petition argues that the hemp grows in almost every part of the Hill State without any care that the other crops require. It does not even ask for much water. Hemp is a water-intensive crop as it requires 400 times less water than other crops and requires almost negligible herbicides, pesticides, manure, and protection from wild animals.
It offers a plethora of benefits. If it begins to grow on a part of the land, then you don’t have to take the pain to plough the field before sowing seeds. It grows rapidly as compared to other crops.
The commercial potential of hemp is unmatchable. If sold to industry, it can produce over 25,000 end products including health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and so on.
It offers 2/3 times more fibre than a crop of cotton. Fabric from hemp fibre is better than cotton and has eight times the tensile strength of cotton.
From the perspective of medical use, if sold to the medical and neurological research institutes, they can study and use it against fatal diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Medical marijuana treatment has become popular and accepted over the last few years in Israel, with about 15,000 registered users and 50 more approved each week.
Take a Look at List of Medical Benefits of Marijuana
|A study published in Journal of the American Medical
Association on 11th January 2012, found that Tobacco
smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users
actually showed an increase in lung capacity.
|A study published in Journal of Pharmacology and
Experimental Therapeutics on 03rd September 2003,
found that Cannabinoids like the active ingredients in
marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), control
seizures by binding to the brain cells responsible for
controlling excitability and regulating relaxation.
Effects: causes seizures and severe developmental delays
|The doctors who recommended this treatment say that
the cannabidiol in the plant interacts with the brain cells
to quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes
these seizures. As was also found by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
(US Citizen) during his research for CNN Special
|Cancer patients being treated with chemo suffer from
painful nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can
cause additional health complications. Marijuana
can help reduce these side effects, alleviating pain,
decreasing nausea, and stimulating the appetite. As was
also found by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (US Citizen) during his
research for his CNN Special Documentary “Weed”
Effects: Alcoholism involves disruptions in the endocannabinoid system.
|Research in Harm Reduction Journal, 03rd December
2009, shows that some people use marijuana as a less
harmful substitute for alcohol, prescription drugs, and
other illegal drugs. Some of the most common reasons
for patients to make that substitution are the less
adverse side effects from marijuana and the fact that it
is less likely to cause withdrawal problems
|1. CBD (Cannabidiol) may help prevent cancer from
spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical
Center in San Francisco reported in 13th December
2. Cannabidiol stops cancer by turning off a gene
called Id-1, the study, published in the journal
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics on 05th September
2007, found. Cancer cells make more copies of this
gene than non-cancerous cells, and it helps them
spread through the body and;
3. Cancer cells in the lab that had high expression
levels of Id-1 and after treating them with
cannabidiol. After treatment the cells had decreased
Id-1 expression and were less aggressive spreaders
Effects: term loss of the ability to think and reason clearly affecting persons daily functioning
|A study published by The National Center for
Biotechnology (USA) on 06th October 2008, found that
THC, the active chemical in marijuana, slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme
in the brain that makes them. These plaques are what
kill brain cells and cause Alzheimers.
|A study published in the Canadian Medical Association
Journal on 14th May 2012 when
Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom studied 30 multiple sclerosis
patients with painful contractions in their muscles.
These patients didn’t respond to other treatments, but
after smoking marijuana for a few days they were in
The THC in the pot binds to receptors in the nerves and
muscles to relieve pain. Other studies suggest that the
chemical also helps control the muscle spasms
Effects: Causes non-stop spasming in the abdominal muscles which are not only painful, but interfere with breathing and speaking
|Smoking marijuana is able to calm the attacks almost
immediately, as it calms the muscles of the diaphragm.
As was also found by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (US Citizen)
during his research for his CNN Special Documentary
Hepatitis – C Infection
|A October 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86 percent of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy, while only 29 percent of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessens the treatments side effects. Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54 percent of Hep-C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8 percent of non smokers|
Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Effects: Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, severe internal cramps/muscle spasms in the region of the pelvis and weight loss. Anemia is the most prevalent extra-intestinal complication of inflammatory bowel disease.
|Institute of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Israel), stated the following in their January 2012 “Digestion” article, “Impact of
Cannabis Treatment on the Quality of Life, Weight, and
Clinical Disease Activity in Inflammatory Bowel
Disease Patients: A Pilot Prospective Study”:-
1. “In the present preliminary prospective study, we
have found that treatment with inhaled cannabis
improves quality of life in patients with longstanding
CD [Crohn’s disease] and UC
[ulcerative colitis]. Treatment was also shown to
cause a statistically significant rise in patients’
weight after 3 months of treatment, and
improvement in clinical disease activity index in
patients with CD.
2. Moreover, the data demonstrated a statistically
significant improvement in almost all aspects of
patients’ daily life. After 3 months’ treatment with
inhaled cannabis, patients stated an
improvement in their health status, their ability
to perform daily activities and their ability to
maintain social life. Patients reported a
statistically significant physical pain reduction
during treatment, as well as improvement in
3. None of our patients complained of any side
effect that disturbed their working ability. In fact,
as was shown in the results, there was a
statistically significant improvement in patients’
ability to work after treatment.”
|The study conducted in 09th November 2005, funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex (a cannabinoid medicine), found patients who had taken the CBM (cannabis-based medicine) had statistically significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, quality of sleep, inflammation, and intensity of pain.|
|A study published on 16th May 2013 in the American Journal of Medicine suggested that pot smokers are skinnier than the average person and have healthier metabolism and reaction to sugars, even though they do end up eating more calories.|
Systemic Lupus Ertyhematosus
Effects: The body starts attacking itself for some unknown reason.
|A team of University of South Carolina researchers led
by Mitzi Nagarkatti, PrakashNagarkatti and Xiaoming
Yang found that chemicals in marijuana seem to have a
calming effect on the immune system, which may be how it helps deal with symptoms of Lupus. Their
research has been published online in the Journal of
Biological Chemistry and is dated 19th May 2014, and,
available on Science Daily, dated 02.06.2014.
|Research from Israel shows that smoking marijuana significantly reduces pain and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients. Particularly impressive was the improved fine motor skills among patients. The said finding can be found in the CNN Special Documentary “Weed”|
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
|Naturally occurring cannabinoids, similar to THC, help
regulate the system that causes fear and anxiety in the
body and brain. The said finding can be found in the a
CNN Special Documentary “Weed”
Brain Damage caused by Stroke
|Research dated 03rd December 2013, from the
University of Nottingham shows that marijuana may
help protect the brain from damage caused by stroke, by
reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke — at
least in rats, mice, and monkeys.
This isn’t the only research that has shown
neuroprotective effects from cannabis. Some research
shows that the plant may help protect the brain after
other traumatic events, like concussions.
Brain Damage caused by Concussions andTrauma
|A study dated 19th August 2013, in the journal Cerebral
Cortex showed that in mice, marijuana lessened the
bruising of the brain and helped with healing
mechanisms after a traumatic injury.
|Specialists at St George’s, University of London,
studied the treatment of brain cancer tumours in the
laboratory and discovered that the most effective
treatment was to combine active chemical components
of the cannabis plant which are called cannabinoids.
The said research can be referred to on Science Daily is
dated 14th November 2014.
HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus
|Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers have discovered that marijuana-like chemicals trigger receptors on human immune cells that can directly inhibit a type of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
found in late-stage AIDS, according to new findings
published on 20th March 2012.
Hemp can save trees
Have you heard of Hemp Paper? Hemp cultivation can save lots of trees that we fell to manufacture paper. For instance, it can produce the same amount of paper in just one acre, which currently takes the sacrifice of trees in 2 to 4 acres of land.
The present policy of burning the cannabis plant not only causes environmental pollution but also causes a great loss to the biodiversity and the eco-system. The plant has a great capacity to maintain the richness of the soil cover.
How cannabis helps fight cancer
As per the appeal made in the petition, BioChemist Dennis Hill research reads
“In every cell, there is a family of interconvertible sphingolipids that specifically manage the life and death of that cell. This profile of factors is called the “Sphingolipid Rheostat.” If endogenous ceramide (a signalling metabolite of sphingosine-1-phosphate) is high, then cell death (apoptosis) is imminent. If ceramide is low, the cell is strong in its vitality.Very simply, when THC connects to the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptor site on the cancer cell, it causes an increase in ceramide synthesis which drives cell death”
Can End Himachal’s War on Drugs
The State’s ‘war on drugs’ can also be ended by legalizing medical and industrial marijuana, the petitioner claims.
By keeping medical and industrial uses of Marijuana prohibited, the State has only allowed drug mafia to develop a parallel black economy and they are targeting children first.
All that the government would have to do is to procure genetically modified species of cannabis which have far less content of the Tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) – content in the plant responsible for its psychotropic effect on smoking and providing such modified seeds to the farmers. As compared to currently found marijuana which as a potency of 4 to 5 percent, the genetically modified hemp will possess only .3 to 1 percent potency. Which means the psychoactive effect of the drug will be absent.
Apparently, these plants will be of no use to the drug users.
This way, the government can take control of the plant from the drug mafia and give it to our scientists, doctors, textile manufacturers and other relevant industries, said the petition.
The Commercial Potential
As per the well-researched petition, allowing regulated cultivation of hemp can lead to rapid economic growth and reduce unemployment in the rural areas.
The hemp has a potential to add more to State’s exchequer (as tax money) and substitute apple as the major cash crop. Legalization of medical and industrial use of Marijuana would make the state more progressive, reduce expenditure, said the petition.
With proper regulation, sensitization and awareness, the hemp cultivation can be used for industrial economic growth. It will lead to a rise in the growth of GDP.
Imposing a tax on selling of marijuana will anyway help in keeping a control over its production, and it would be a help to the State economy.
The petitioner said that according to the central government’s Ministry of Textiles, internationally, hemp production is estimated to be around 0.1 million tonnes annually.
Allowing Indian farmers to cultivate hemp will give them a stake in the $1.5 trillion hemp industry currently dominated by China, France and Germany.
Regularising the plant could create an industrial hemp textile market in India that could be valued at an estimated Rs 240 million.
The petition said such Marijuana in Netherland contributes about $3.2 billion with an annual gross
Further, the petitioner referred to the State government of Uttrakhand that has recently directed officials to facilitate the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp in the State to capitalize on its fibres. Meanwhile, the academic institutions have been asked to conduct research to ‘develop’ modified hemp species with only 0.3 to 1.5 percent THC content.
The neighbouring state of Himachal, Uttrakhand has already permitted regulated cultivation of hemp.
Some other facts about industrial hemp
- The industrial hemp’s product hempcrete could be a greener alternative to concrete. The plant acts as a carbon store, absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). One square metre of a timber-framed, hemp-lime wall (weighing 120 kg), stores 35.5 kg of CO2. In contrast, about 198kg of CO2 is emitted to make one tonne of reinforced concrete.
- Cannabis has 450 ingredients, of which 80 are chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The human brain has cannabinoid receptors, which control physiological processes such as appetite, pain, mood and memory, together called the endocannabinoid system. The cannabinoids from cannabis interact with the receptors in the brain and work as a smooth muscle relaxant and receptor blocker, alleviating pain, and symptoms of arthritis, diabetes,
- Hemp Plastic-Hemp can also act as a good plastic substitute to produce products which are strong, durable and environment-friendly.
- Biodiesel can be produced from the fibrous stalks reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power
- Cannabis oil is the most potent of three main cannabis products, which are the actual cannabis flower (marijuana), resin (hashish), and oil (cannabis oil). Cannabis oil is the most concentrated form of References to history the three main cannabis products. That is what makes cannabis oil the most potent.
- The cannabis plant is being grown world over to reduce radiation effects in areas where nuclear disasters have happened because of its properties to soak up radiation.
- The plant acts as a carbon store, absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)
Further, the petitioner said the rest of the world has already initiated the process of decriminalizing marijuana. In the United States of America, it’s legal with strict regulations in States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Bar & Bench Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington.
The petitioner appeals that the “The Constitution Of India 1949” guarantees right to preserve cultural identity. In addition to it, India also has National Fiber Policy, 2010.
- The petitioner has also pleaded the court to dwell upon the cultivation and use of marijuana in historical context. It is one of the oldest crops used for cultivation. It was cultivated in China as early as 4000 BC.
- Cannabis has a long history in India and dates back to as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C. The earliest mention of cannabis can be found in The Vedas or sacred Hindu texts.
- According to The Vedas, cannabis is one of five sacred plants and a guardian angel lived in its leaves. The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear, said the petition.
- The Zend-Avesta, a sacred book of Zoroastrianism, used by the peoples of India dating back to 600 BC, talked about hemp’s intoxicating resin.
- The Chinese emperor and herbalist, Chen-Nung wrote about hemp’s medicinal uses 5000 years ago.
- In Great Britain, Hemp cultivation extensively started back in 800 A.D
- During the 17th Century, American farmers were ordered to grow Indian hemp. The law also passed an order that a person could be sentenced if they weren’t growing hemp on their land. At that time, hemp was considered as a legal tender. Moreover, for more than 200 years, hemp was used as a currency to pay off their taxes. Rudolph Diesel created a famous engine in 1896.
The petition said this step can epitomise a wholesome, credible solution towards alleviating conditions of poor farmers and uplifting society by tracing the timeless benefits of Hemp to drive measurable social impact. The petitioner urged the State to take steps in providing a regulatory framework to facilitate cultivation of industrial hemp.
What Exactly the Petitioner Seeks from High Court
Do not take the petition as a hope that it would mean decriminalization of smoking cannabis. On the behalf of the people living a poverty-ridden life in rural areas, who could not reach the court to avail already existing provisions due to lack of kaleidoscopic legalities associated with this sensitive topic, the petitioner seeks the directions of the court for removal of restrictions on growing only commercial and medicinal hemp.
First, the government should define industrial hemp (based on the percentage of THC) and authorize the cultivation and possession of industrial hemp by creating an advisory board or commission.
The petition also appeals to facilitate the cultivation, processing, and use of only industrial and medical hemp, so that the public could receive is commercial and medical benefits.
The petition seeks to authorize a state licensing or registration program for growers and seed breeders. The state departments should be allowed to collect funds for research programs, said the petition.
The government can promote research and support development of markets for industrial and medical hemp.
The court can direct the government to collect important information on industrial and medicinal hemp to further make regulations/guidelines on easy access to open industries, scientific research labs, and institutes for Industrial and medicinal hemp use.
The Research Centre, Pant Universities, and agricultural industry should be directed to develop seeds having a THC level apt for industrial use. These seeds will be disseminated to the villagers. It will act as an effective measure to prevent the growth of cannabis having an illegally high THC content, said the petition.
Note: All the factual information published in the above story are taken from the petition filed in the High Court of Himachla Pradesh.
Stray Cattle Menace in Himachal: Man Dies After Being Attacked by a Bull in Bilaspur
Bilaspur-Stray cattle population in Himachal Pradesh is increasing day by day, and along with it increasing the menace created by them. Destroying crops, causing road accidents and traffic jams, and attacking humans are included in this menace.
In such an incident, a 70-year-old man died after he was attacked by a stray bull in Baroha village of Jhanduta Sub-Division in Bilaspur district on September 8, 2019.
The man was carried to Jhanduta community health centre in an injured condition. After initial treatment, the doctor referred him to District Hospital Bilaspur where he was declared brought dead. SHO, Police Station, Jhanduta, Pritam Chand, confirmed the report. He said a case has been registered in this regard.
The deceased was identified as Ganga Ram, a resident of Baroh village.
As per the report, the victim was returning from Shiv Mandir (temple) in Baroha on Sunday evening when he was attacked by a bull standing on the roadside.
It’s not the first time that stray cattle have attacked people. About a half a dozen cases have been reported from Bilaspur where people lost their lives or sustained injuries.
Watch Hundreds of Stray Cattle Roaming on Roads in Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Mandi Districts
Other than Bilaspur, district Mandi, Hamirpur, and Kangra are also facing this menace due to the rising number of stray cattle. Road accidents have become very frequent on National Highway 21.
In a very recent case, a truck loaded with apples met an accident while trying to save a stray cow on NH 21 in Harabag, Sundernagar in Mandi district. Two people were injured in the incident. Further, Dharampur, Sarkaghat, Navahi, Balah and Nachan Assembly segments in the district are worst hit by this menace.
A couple of days ago, villagers in Bichadi sub-division of Hamirpur district had raised the issue of an alarming rise in the number of stray cattle. They had highlighted that several accidents have been reported due to hundreds of these animals roaming on the roads. The villagers also said that attacks by stray animals have become frequent and children and elderly are most vulnerable to these attacks.
Similarly, locals in Ghumarvin region of Bilaspur district had raised the issue of rising menace due to stray cattle. As per the locals, in several incidents, people were injured due to attacks by cattle roaming on roads. Dakadi Chowk, Gandhi Chowk, Bhaged Chowk, Kandror Chowk, Ghumani Chowk, Nihari Chowk, Padyalag Chowk, Dangar Chowk, Kutheda Chowk etc. were some of the places where stray cattle destroyed crops of the villagers.
Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Jan Sangharsh Samiti say that no cow-shelters were built in panchayats despite the orders of the State High Court passed in 2015. These organizations allege that they have raised the matter several times but no action ever came from the administration.
The situation in Palampur is also similar as despite the court orders, no cow-shelters or homes for stray animals were set up. The administration and the Animal Husbandry Department express their helplessness saying they don’t have funds to provide shelters.
Worst affected is the main bazaar of Palampur where herds of cattle can be seen creating traffic troubles. Ghuggar and Lohana Aima areas are also facing safety hazards due to the rising number of stray cattle.
On the other hand, the state government, in May 2019, told the High Court that a policy is being framed for stray animals under which animal sanctuaries would be established in every district. In these sanctuaries, the government had told the court, these animals would be provided with every basic facility including animal hospitals and vets. However, no such sanctuary has come into existence so far.
Prior to 2015, in an order passed on 7-10-2014 while hearing a petition filed by the Bhartiya Govansh Rakshan Sanverdhan Parishad, HP, the court had ordered the state to make the entire road length free of stray cattle by December 31, 2014.
The court had directed the Superintending Engineers of all National Highways to ensure that no stray cattle, including cows and bulls, are found roaming on the roads. The court had further directed Executive Officers of all the Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Pradhans of the Gram Panchayats to ensure that all the roads passing through their jurisdiction are kept free from the stray cattle to ensure free and smooth flow of the traffic.
The order had further directed that all the cattle including cows in M.C. Shimla and Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Panchayats should have a tag number to make it easy to trace the owner.
Further, as per the court orders, every citizen has a right to bring to the notice the location of the Cow or stray animal suffering from any disease or injury to Government Veterinary Officer/Doctor, who can’t refuse to treat stray cattle.
In March 2018, while presenting the state budget, the current government led by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, had even started levying one percent cess (Gau vansh vikas cess) on sale of every single bottle of liquor. He had also decided that 15 percent of the total offering made in temples would be utilized for construction of cow-shelters.
No need to say that the government have collected fat amount of funds by August 2019. However, the number of stray cattle roaming on roads continues to rise instead of decreasing.
As per the previous Congress government, the total number of stray cattle in 2015 was 31,000. For the new government, this number was 32,000 in 2018. However, as a matter of fact, the actual number is much higher, especially after the ban on beef was imposed. Now, the villagers do not sell old cows to traders but simply abandon them. After reports of mob lynching, no one takes the risk of even transporting cows to any cow-shelter.
The people themselves have a major role in creating this menace. The situation is being worsened by the government’s inaction and defiance toward court orders.
Tutikandi-Dhali Bypass (NH-5) in Tatters Again, Potholes, Dust Trouble Commuters
Shimla – Tutikandi-Dhali Bypass (NH-5), like every year, is in tatters after the monsoon. It has become a tradition or a necessary ritual for the government that the bypass must get back into miserable condition after monsoon every year.
The road was tarred in last December and then a patchwork was given right before the elections to the Lok Sabha. But the monsoon has exposed the quality of work done by the contractor. Most of the road has eroded and large potholes have appeared. The road is covered with loose gravel and dust. To make it even worse, the potholes are being covered by filling them up with soil or illegaly dumped muck. It’s making the road dustier on sunny days, and muddy when it rains.
The shops located along the bypass are suffering daily due to the unbearable amount of dust arising from the road and settling on every single thing in the shops.
“Dust settles on everything kept in the shop. I have no option but to dust anything that I sell before handing it over to consumers. Worst hit is the sale of my vegetables because dust ruins them within a couple of hours. I can’t keep sprinkling water entire day,”
said a shopkeeper who runs a shop near Phagali along the NH.
Dhabas and tea-stalls are also bearing the brunt of dusty roads.
“People don’t prefer to stand at the stall due to dust, and it is affecting my business,”
said a tea-stall owner located near New ISBT in Tutikandi.
Further, if you park your vehicle anywhere on bypass, it’ll be covered in dust within 10 minutes.
For two-wheelers, the road is becoming almost unmotorable as potholes and gravel make it unsafe to ride. At the same time, dust not only settles on clothes but also reduces visibility at several points.
The pedestrians, as well as passengers, who use bust stops daily, are also helpless against dusty conditions.
“During rains, the splashes of water from potholes troubled the pedestrians, and now the dust is making it a suffocating task to walk along the road,”
a resident of Kanlog said.
Another risk arises from the efforts of drivers to avoid potholes or eroded patches of the road and they even enter into the wrong lane to do so. It raises the risk of road accidents.
Two main reasons for the poor condition of the road are blocked rainwater drainages and sub-standard tarring work. Before the onset of the monsoon, the state government had announced that it was ready for the monsoon and necessary precautions and measures like clearing of drains have been taken, but in reality, the drains remained blocked throughout the monsoon. As a result, the rainwater eroded the road.
As far as the maintenance of the road is concerned, it’s highly unlikely that it will be carried out before March or April next year. Till then, the condition of the road would continue to deteriorate and the contractor would continue filling up potholes with soil and muck.
A Roar of a Lion- Right to free speech, Right to Dissent, Sedition and Majoritarianism
Of Roaring Lions and Squeaking Mice!
Francis Bacon had once described the judges as ‘Lions under the throne.”However decades later in the famous Second World War case of Liversidge v Anderson, where Lord Atkin delivered his powerful dissenting speech, he commented on the arguments of the lawyers and stated that this level of reasoning would have been acceptable to the Court of Kings Bench in the time of Charles I (a monarchy) but not in a democracy, sadly this reasoning was accepted by all of his brother judges. The subjective interpretation adopted by his brother judges who were then pleasing to politicians provoked a letter to Lord Atkin from Mr Justice Wintringham Stable. The letter expressed approval of Lord Atkin’s dissent, and then added:
“I venture to think the decision of the House of Lords has reduced the stature of the judiciary, with consequences that the nation will one day bitterly regret. Bacon, I think, said the judges were the Lions under the throne, but the House of Lords has reduced us to mice squeaking under a chair.“
The time is right to celebrate the courage shown by one of our very own, Justice Deepak Gupta, who has roared like a lion in times where just speaking against the ruling Governments would amount to sounding of the death knell for some. In times where we have judgments after judgments trying to bypass the constitution in novel ways so that the mighty and the powerful may not get offended (remember the dissent of Justice Chanderchud where he talks of a fraud played on the constitution and present grant of adjournments in habeas corpus petitions in SC), in times where police is more active in catching hold of people who have written something on their facebook wall or WhatsApp (under an extinct provision of Section 66A) rather than looking for rapists and murderers, in times where a lawyer if he knows the politician he becomes a judge or an advocate general, in times where dissatisfaction with the government will brand you as an anti-national, in times where freedom of speech is being attacked across the country and fight for human rights and civil liberties is undermined in every nook and corner, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, and our very own, ‘son of the soil’ has had the spine to publically say THE TIMELESS TRUTH of our democracy.
The Hon’ble Judge expressed himself On September 7. The following are edited excerpts of his lecture.
Right to Dissent
There cannot be any democratic polity where the citizens do not have the right to think as they like, express their thoughts, have their own beliefs and faith, and worship in a manner which they feel like.
The right to freedom of opinion and the right of freedom of conscience by themselves include the extremely important right to disagree.
Thus, the right to dissent is one of the most important rights guaranteed by our Constitution. As long as a person does not break the law or encourage strife, he has a right to differ from every other citizen and those in power and propagate what he believes is his belief.
Every society has its own rules and over a period of time when people only stick to the age-old rules and conventions, society degenerates. New thinkers are born when they disagree with the well-accepted norms of society. If everybody follows the well-trodden path, no new paths will be created, no new explorations will be done and no new vistas will be found. If a person does not ask questions and does not raise issues questioning age-old systems, no new systems would develop and the horizons of the mind will not expand.
Whether Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad, Guru Nanak Dev, Martin Luther, Kabir, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Karl Marx or Mahatma Gandhi, new thoughts and religious practices would not have been established, if they had quietly submitted to the views of their forefathers and not questioned the existing religious practices, beliefs and rituals.
In a secular country, every belief does not have to be religious. Even atheists enjoy equal rights under the Constitution. Whether one is a believer, an agnostic or an atheist, one enjoys complete freedom of belief and conscience under our Constitution. There can be no impediments on the aforesaid rights except those permitted by the Constitution.
The judgment of HR Khanna, J. in A.D.M. Jabalpur case, is a shining example of a dissent which is much more valuable than the opinion of the majority. This was a judgment delivered by a fearless, incorruptible Judge. Judges are administered oath wherein they swear or affirm to perform the duties to the best of their ability without fear or favour, affection or ill will. First and foremost part of the duty is to do one’s duty without fear.
Law of Sedition
It was enacted at a time when India was ruled by a foreign imperialist colonizing power. The British brooked no opposition and did not want to listen to any criticism. Their sole aim was to deprive the people of this country of their rights including the right to express their views.
Interestingly, though sedition was an offence in the first draft of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) drafted by Lord Macaulay, somehow this did not find its way into the IPC when it was enacted in the year 1860. The IPC was amended in the year 1898 when Section 124A was introduced.
When Section 124A was first introduced, we were told that this provision was not to curb legitimate dissent but was to be used only when the writer or the speaker directly or indirectly suggested or intended to produce the use of force.
Interestingly, another reason given was that there was a Wahabi conspiracy by a man who had preached Jihad or holy war against Christians in India and therefore the need to introduce such a provision.
Though Section 124A was inserted for fear of Muslim preachers advocating Jihad or religious war, it was initially used against Hindu leaders. The first such case was of Jogendera Chunder Bose wherein in a newspaper called Bangobasi, the Editor objected to the English rulers raising the age of consent of sexual intercourse for Indian girls from 10 to 12 years.
Subsequently, the British used the law of sedition to curb any demand for independence said Gupta citing the case of Queen Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
I would also like to refer to the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, who in this city of Ahmedabad was charged with sedition. Appearing before Sessions Judge Broomfield, Mahatma Gandhi while dealing with the word ‘disaffection’ had this to say: “Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.”
I think this brilliantly sums up what I want to say today that mere criticism without incitement to violence would not amount to sedition. However, the Mahatma was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for 6 years.
You cannot force people to have affection for the government and merely because people have disaffection or strongly disagree with the views of the Government or express their disagreement in strong words, no sedition is made out unless they or their words promote or incite or tend to promote or incite violence and endanger public order.
However, in present times there is no healthy discussion but only shouting and slanging matches, lamented Justice Gupta. If one does not agree with another, that person becomes an anti-nationalist.
There is no advocacy on principles and issues. There are only shouting and slanging matches. Unfortunately, the common refrain is either you agree with me or you are my enemy, or worse, an enemy of the nation, an anti-nationalist.
The constitutional validity of Section 124A has to be read in the context of Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Thus, advocating any new cause however unpopular or uncomfortable it may be to the powers that be, it must be permitted.
Sedition can arise only against a government established by law. Government is an institution, a body and not a person. Criticism of persons cannot be equated with criticism of the government….Criticism of senior functionaries may amount to defamation for which they can take action in accordance with law but this will definitely not amount to sedition or creating disharmony.
Police cannot deal with law and order problems but have time for sedition
Majoritarianism Can’t be Law
During the dark days of Emergency, an attempt was made by one party President to equate his leader with the country. I am sure that no one will ever try in future to equate a personality with this country of ours which is much bigger than any individual.
A majority government does not mean that minority voices should not be heard. Majoritarianism cannot be the law. Even the minority has the right to express its views. We must also remember that in India we follow the first past the post principle. Besides, he also stated that even Governments which come in with a huge majority do not get 50% of the votes. Therefore, though they are entitled to govern or be called as the majority, it cannot be said that they represent the voice of all the people.
The police always claim to be short of forces when questioned about the adverse law and order situation in various parts of the country. Trials in criminal cases of rape, murder and crimes falling under POCSO carry on for years on end because police officials do not have time to even depose before the courts but when it comes to sedition or Section 153A or implementing the provisions of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act (which has been declared unconstitutional), there seems to be no shortage of manpower and the police acts with great alacrity.
It is, thus, clear that there is one set of rules for the rich and the powerful and another set of rules for the ordinary citizens of the country. In a country which professes to live by rule of law, this cannot be permitted.
Thus, the law of sedition is more often abused and misused and the people who criticise those in power are arrested by police officials on the asking of those in power and even if a person may get bail the next day from the court, he has suffered the ignominy of being sent to jail. The manner in which the provisions of Section 124A are being misused, begs the question as to whether we should have a relook at it. Freedom of expression being a constitutional right must get primacy over laws of sedition. Sedition is a crime only when there is an incitement to violence or public disorder.
But the law as laid down in Kedar Nath Singh’s case regarding sedition is not being followed.
‘Right to Criticise Government’
I think our country, our Constitution and our national emblems are strong enough to stand on their own shoulders without the aid of the law of sedition. You may force or compel a person to stand while the National Anthem is being sung, but you cannot compel him within his heart to have respect for the same. How does one judge what is inside a person’s mind or in his heart?
In Chhattisgarh, a 53 years old man was arrested on charges of sedition for allegedly spreading rumours over social media about power cuts in the State. It was said that this was done to tarnish the image of the then Government running the State. The charge was absurd and again highlights the misuse of power. In Manipur, a journalist made a vituperative attack on the Chief Minister of the State and used totally unparliamentary language against the Prime Minister of the country. The language was intemperate and uncalled for but this was not a case of sedition.
Criticism of government by itself cannot amount to sedition. India is a powerful nation, loved by its citizens. We are proud to be Indians. We, however, have the right to criticise the Government. Criticism of the Government by itself cannot amount to sedition. In a country which is governed by the rule of law and which guarantees freedom of speech, expression and belief to its citizens, the misuse of the law of sedition and other similar laws is against the very spirit of freedom for which the freedom fighters fought and gave up their lives.
The shoulders of those in power who govern should be broad enough to accept criticism. Their thinking should be wide enough to accept the fact that there can be another point of view. Criticism of the policies of the government is not sedition unless there is a call for public disorder or incitement to violence. The people in power must develop thick skins. They cannot be oversensitive to people who make fun of them. In a free country, people have the right to express their views.
Everybody may not use temperate or civilised language. If intemperate, uncivilised and defamatory language is used, then the remedy is to file proceedings for defamation but not prosecute the persons for sedition or creating disharmony.
Judiciary Not Above Criticism
In fact, I welcome criticism of the judiciary because only if there is criticism, will there be an improvement. Not only should there be criticism but there must be introspection. When we introspect, we will find that many decisions taken by us need to be corrected.
Criticism of the executive, the judiciary, the bureaucracy or the Armed Forces cannot be termed sedition. In case we attempt to stifle criticism of the institutions whether it be the legislature, the executive or the judiciary or other bodies of the State, we shall become a police State instead of a democracy and this the founding fathers never expected this country to be.
Section 66A of the IT Act, which put restrictions on the freedom of expression in an online space, is still being used by the lower judiciary and the police, even after being struck down in the Shreya Singhal case.
It does not speak well of the Indian judiciary that the magistrates are unaware of the law of land, and day in and day out, we hear of magistrates granting judicial custody or police remand in relation to such offences.
The recent trends have instilled fear in people when it comes to expressing their opinions on criticising governments in power. A very important aspect of a democracy is that the citizens should have no fear of the government. They should not be scared of expressing views which may not be liked by those in power. No doubt, the views must be expressed in a civilised manner without inciting violence but a mere expression of such views cannot be a crime and should not be held against the citizens.
No doubt, the views must be expressed in a civilised manner without inciting violence but a mere expression of such views cannot be a crime and should not be held against the citizens. The world would be a much better place to live if people could express their opinions fearlessly without being scared of prosecutions or trolling on social media. It is indeed sad that one of our celebrities had to withdraw from social media because he and his family members were trolled or threatened of dire consequences.
‘Nationalism is a Great Menace’
Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore had a view on nationalism, which is the anti-thesis of the view which many of us have. He, in fact, had not appreciated the Satyagrah movement. He, who wrote the National Anthem also held the view that ―nationalism is a great menace. I do not agree with those views nor did eminent leaders of that time but this did not make Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore less an Indian, less a patriot than any of his contemporaries. Merely because a person does not agree with the Government in power or is virulently critical of the Government in power, does not make him any less a patriot than those in power. In today‘s world, if any person was to say ―nationalism is a great menaceǁ he may well be charged with sedition.
If this country is to progress not only in the field of commerce and industry but to progress in the field of human rights and be a shining example of an effective, vibrant democracy then the voice of the people can never be stifled. I can do no better than quote the words of Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary deserts and of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action.
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
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