Reinventing a tougher ‘Tebbit Test’? | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


On the fateful day of October 24, 2021, Pakistan defeated India in the ICC T20 World Cup – the first and only time in the history of the ICC World Cups. Social media exploded with emotions. It appeared that Pakistan had won a war against India! There were sporadic celebrations cheering Pakistan’s victory. That was enough for the Indian State to come down heavily on the ‘Pakistani supporters’ – charging them under various criminal law provisions including causing public mischief, disturbing public peace, promoting enmity among groups, sedition, and terrorism. Students were suspended from colleges and teachers were dismissed from services. So much so that three Kashmiri medical students in Agra struggled to find legal representation in the court of law for their ‘anti-national’ act. Predictably, all the accused are Muslims. 

Several senior politicians condemned those supporting Pakistan. Vikram Randhawa, former BJP lawmaker, suggested skinning them alive and stripping them of their citizenship. Cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir called such acts “shameful”. Yogi Adityanath proposed bringing sedition charges. In sum, such behaviour was viewed as disloyalty or treason. 

There is no law in India which specifically prohibits an Indian citizen to support any opposition country in the sporting arena. However, the law on sedition (defined under Section 124A IPC as any act written, spoken or otherwise, which brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites disaffection towards the Government and carries punishment for life) has been settled long back in the famous case of Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962) by the Supreme Court. The Court raised the bar for bringing seditious charges and held that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, by way of criticism or comment, provided it does not incite people to carry out violence against the Government or intend to create public disorder. It is very difficult to fathom as to how celebrating Pakistan’s victory can be a seditious act. 

Some were booked under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), an anti-terror legislation. Section 13 prohibits “unlawful activity” [Sec. 2(o)] such as disrupting “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India” or intending or supporting “cession of a part of the territory of India” or causing or intending to cause “disaffection against India”.

Can some overt acts of such celebration create a ‘law and order’ problem? Possibly ‘Yes’ and the State may be required to take action. However, it is different from the maintenance of ‘public order’ or protecting the ‘security of the State’. And these three concepts have been judicially distinguished from each other in Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar (1966). One has to imagine three concentric circles, the largest representing ‘law and order’, the next representing ‘public order’, and the smallest representing ‘security of the State’. Hence, an act may affect ‘law and order’, but not ‘public order’; an act may affect ‘public order’, but not ‘the security of the State’. Thus, for mere law and order problems or apprehension of the same, imposition of sedition or UAPA seems untenable.    

As certain posts were made on social media, Section 66F of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which deals with “cyber terrorism” was invoked. Interestingly, it refers to acts of terror by way of disrupting the authorized access or getting unauthorized access to a computer resource, or causing damage to the computer network. It has nothing to do with sending WhatsApp messages. It appears that the provision was invoked by the police without any application of mind. 

It is very unlikely for the State to successfully prosecute the accused in the interest of justice. However, what the State can do is to take those people into custody, extend the remand, let them languish behind the bars without trial and cause harassment. The trend is evident from the National Crime Records Bureau data of 2014-2019, where the cases of sedition have increased each year with a reverse conviction trend, sliding into meagre 3 per cent in 2019.     

Treating cricket as a test of patriotism for Indian Muslims is a tricky game and could be self-defeating. Whenever India plays England or Australia in their own countries, we draw a huge support from persons of Indian origin (PIOs). Should they be declared anti-nationals and imprisoned for such an unpatriotic act? In fact, by declaring the supporters as criminals, India is reviving the controversial ‘Tebbit test’ (also popularly called ‘Cricket test’), credited to British Conservative politician, Norman Tebbit. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in April 1990, Tebbit questioned the loyalties of Asian immigrants. Using the example of cricket, he declared: “A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?

Tebbit test was an attack on the people’s freedom of choice. His remarks sparked outrage, with Asian leaders calling them insulting and disgusting. Some demanded that he be prosecuted for promoting racial hate, while others urged then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to denounce his words. His test has now become a benchmark for talking – even if casually – about race and identity politics in multicultural Britain, despite the fact that he was not really censured. Many British Indians happily work for England and cheer for India. Nasser Hussain, Ravi Bopara, Monty Panesar and others of Indian origin even represented England with distinction.  

So, are we reinventing a desi and tougher version of the Tebbit test? Better we don’t attempt one. Will similar kind of action be taken if someone supports England or Australia? I have ample doubt. If one argues that there is nothing wrong in the Indian State’s recent actions, then there was nothing wrong with Tebbit either. We shouldn’t confuse the two loyalties – patriotism and sports. While the former may be demonstrated at various levels in our work and public life, the latter is a source of entertainment. 

It is possible that one may wish to support Pakistan or any other country because of race, religion, birth, familial connections, etc. We ought to learn to respect his choice if we consider living in a multicultural liberal society. If we find nothing unusual in Abhijit Banerjee, an US citizen, receiving the Nobel Prize in his traditional Bengali attire or PIOs in Australia or England rooting for the Indian team, we shouldn’t do so when an Indian supports Pakistan in sports. 

I visualize any person who is corrupt, does not pay taxes, insincere in performing his duties, indulges in illegal activities, yet ‘bleeds blue’ whenever India takes the field is more anti-national than one who does the opposite but supports Pakistan. Justice SM Subramaniam of the Madras High Court in the case of P. Saravanan v. The District Collector (2019) rightly observed: “Terrorists are declared as anti-social elements. Thus, persons corrupt and acting against the developmental activities of our Great Nation are also to be declared as anti-nationals.” 

Generally, citizens support their own nations in sports but one ought to have a freedom of choice. If someone decides otherwise, it wouldn’t endanger the security of the nation or cause any irreparable harm. Mixing nationalism with sports is an immature idea.    

Linkedin


Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



END OF ARTICLE





Original Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one + three =