Two Indias - Vir Das VS State
Mere weeks after being called out for his homophobic jokes, Vir Das is in the spotlight for his outspoken opinions yet again. However, this time around it is not about liberalness and transphobia, it is about religion, national identity, and criminal correctness.
Vir Das posted a YouTube video “Two Indias” on 15th November containing parts of his show in Washington D.C. In that video, he rather unapologetically accuses the entire nation (of India) to be Islamophobic after a loss to Pakistan. The crux of the matter is that this statement was extremely rudimentary, factually off, and blatant in delivery, but…was it unlawful? Before answering this question, it is essential to understand the laws that effectively outline when and how a citizen is “vilifying the nation”, something Mr Das is being popularly accused of by the Indian masses, generally belonging to the right-wing.
Was It Illegal?
When a citizen is accused of disturbing the essence of a nation, it is often due to physical actions such as armed rebellion or vandalizing national treasures. In this case, none of this business happened. The comedian was merely exercising his right to speech which is guaranteed by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act (Freedom of Expression) and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Considering Mr Das was in the United States when he remarked, he had every right to practice international laws. Henceforth, just due to the internationality of the matter, no compelling case can be made regarding the act of Mr Das being unlawful.
However, for the sake of it, let us look at the matter solely through an Indian lens. Suppose Mr Das made the remark in India and considering he is an Indian citizen, he will be subjected to Indian Law. In accordance with Indian Law which deals with the verbal representation of inciting unlawful national threats, sedition (Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code) is considered.
Thus, we need to understand the fundamentals of sedition. Sedition, ever since its first test in Tara Singh Gopi Chand vs The State, has always been considered as the impetus for other national crimes by the hon’ble judicial interpreters. Furthermore, Mr Das actions are protected by the fundamental right of speech present in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. On a factual note, even if Mr Das had incited other crimes by his remark, which he, did not, the audience of his monologue were non-Indian citizens who are not subject to Indian national laws.
Looking both from national law and international law, it is established that the actions of Mr Das were in no way unlawful. However, this specific situation has overtaken news channels and social media not as a legal issue, but rather as a religious issue. The single-minded ideology of the masses has flooded Mr Das and those second him with (UNLAWFUL) hate speech. This is a characteristic feature of the chauvinism present, popularizing and polarizing India in the last few years. The masses seem to blind their patriotism and sedition trackers when a certain Padam-Shree Awardee chauvinist like them repeatedly undermines the very foundation of Indian sovereignty. Mr Das is just caught up in the larger picture of a one-nation one-religion theory which is ever more popular, and it seems to be our nation’s future.
Sources ~ NDTV, Hindustan Times, United Nations, Punjab High Court, Constitution of India, Government of India, Vir Das