A special court in Chennai on July 5 sentenced the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko to one year’s imprisonment on the charge of sedition. The judge of the court, the Chennai Special Court for the Trial of Criminal Cases Involving Elected Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu, imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 too.
Vaiko was alleged to have made seditious remarks in his speech at a book-release function in Chennai on July 15, 2009. His speech, according to the Thousand Lights police, which filed the case against him, created “anguish and vengeance” against the Indian government. The FIR was filed on December 9, 2009, and the government’s sanction order to proceed was passed on December 10, 2010.
Notwithstanding the one-year sentence, Vaiko, accompanied by the DMK leader M.K. Stalin, filed his nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha seat from Tamil Nadu on July 6. Vaiko is one of three persons to be nominated by the DMK-led secular front. Legal experts dismissed apprehensions that Vaiko would not be able to contest the election after the verdict in the sedition case. They claimed that the sedition charge was not included in the list of offences under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act that would attract a disqualification.
The prosecution’s case was that on July 15, 2009, Vaiko, after the release of his book Kutram Sattugiraen (I Accuse), said in his speech that the “Indian government is responsible for the death of the each Tamil men and women [during Sri Lankan war]. His speech was in a way to create law and order problem.” He said that “we have to raise our hands to form Tamil Eelam”. The prosecution claimed that the manner in which he spoke was such that it could “destroy the harmony among the people of Tamil Nadu”. It further accused him of bringing hatred and inciting disaffection towards the government established by law in India.
The charges were framed against him under Sections 124A (Sedition) and 153A(1) (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). While taking them on file, the Fifth Additional Sessions Court in Chennai in 2017 dropped the offence under Section153A(1) and framed charged under Section 124A of the IPC.
The Supreme Court Order in Aswini Kumar Upadhyaya vs Union of India (2016), asked States to form special courts for cases relating to elected representatives. Since Vaiko was a former MP the present case was assigned to the Special Court.
After the trial, the Special Court judge J. Shanthi held that the charge of sedition against Vaiko had been proved “beyond all reasonable doubt” and “established the guilt of the accused.” She, in her verdict, said: “The speech of the accused certainly has a tendency to incite violence by unlawful means and the speech made by the accused clearly expresses disapprobation of the measures of the government.” Most of the version [of his speech], she said, had “a tendency to excite disloyalty and feelings of enmity against the government”.
The judge said the speech that Vaiko made had, in the context of his position in society, a tendency to create a major impact in the minds of the people with a consequential effect which the accused would surely be aware. Section 124A would attract acts involving intention and tendency to create disorder or disturbance to law and order or incitement to violence. “Whoever tries to excite, attempts to excite is held to come within this section. Whether the act has resulted in violence is immaterial. The accused cannot escape if his act do fall within the ambit of the above explanation with regard to disaffection . Hence the charges against the accused stood proved.”
Protesting against the inordinate delay in the case, Vaiko, in April 2017, surrendered before the before Chennai XIII Metropolitan Magistrate court and refused to apply for bail demanding the immediate start of the trial pending since 2009. The magistrate remanded him to 15 days judicial custody.
Vaiko is set to enter the Upper House after a gap of 23 years. His previous tenure in the Rajya Sabha was between 1990 and 1996 as a representative of the DMK [He was expelled from the party in 1993].
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