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    Here’s Why We’re Concerned about Maharashtra Police Filing an FIR against this local lawyer

    Maharashtra’s Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police recently filed an FIR against a lawyer for sharing a video by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the title ‘Mind of a Dictator,’ reported the Indian Express. Advocate Adesh Bansode, who is also the Maharashtra secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, was charged with disobeying police’s prohibitory orders prior to voting and ‘influencing voters during election time.’

    Here’s what happened: On May 20, 2024, the day Mumbai’s phase five regions were scheduled for voting, Bansode sent the video to the Bar Association of Vasai WhatsApp group with the message, “Do watch the video before going to vote.” Another lawyer, who was in the same WhatsApp group, wrote to the police on May 21, complaining about the “objectionable” video. Bansode was charged under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for disobeying a prohibitory order by MBVV Police Commissioner Madhukar Pandey for smooth proceedings of the general elections.

    Speaking to the Indian Express, Bansode rubbished the charges stating that Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) Section 195 requires the police to obtain prior permission from the concerned court before registering an FIR under Section 188. He also pointed out that the video had been watched, liked and shared by “crores” of other people, and asked whether the police intended to take action against all these individuals.

    Does this mean people are not allowed to share political opinions before voting?

    It is quite common for people to discuss politics and the activities of election candidates before the voting date. Websites like MyNeta share information about political candidates, like their criminal history, assets, etc. Are these websites influencing voters as well? Moreover, the “influencing” for which Bansode has been charged is being done by the YouTuber Rathee and not the lawyer himself. Does this mean political opinion and discussion should be completely muzzled before voting?

    It’s also important to remember that the person being criticized in the video already holds the position of India’s Prime Minister. In the ongoing Fact-Check Unit case before the Bombay High Court, it has been argued that a healthy discussion regarding the government of the day is an important aspect of any democracy. Advocate Navroz Seervai appearing for satirist Kunal Kamra argued that it is in fact in the case of state-sponsored censorship that people’s right to discuss, debate and question the government of the day is stifled.

    So, a question that would be worth asking here is: why does the MBVV police not consider an exchange of opinion or even a video as a healthy political discourse here? MediaNama tried to reach out to the local police station but has received no reply so far. This copy will be updated upon further developments.


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    The post Here’s Why We’re Concerned about Maharashtra Police Filing an FIR against this local lawyer appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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