New Delhi: Amid a raging debate on freedom of expression in the country, a Supreme Court lawyer, at an open class on nationalism in JNU, on Sunday advocated taking the sedition law "head on" and said modern democracy like India must ensure room for criticism of government.
Sarim Naved said criticism of the Union government does not amount to criminal activity, but strengthens constitutional values.
"A juncture has been reached in India...I am sure you feel targeted, I am sure you feel news channels are baying for blood. JNU is receiving a lot of popular support right now. Take the (sedition) law head on.
"The message that has to go out from JNU is that your slogans, your activism, criticism of the government is in fact strengthening constitutional values. There is nothing in the law that can criminalise or make punishable any speech that is anti-Union. Your actions have not and cannot harm people of India," he told students.
He said if a speech or slogan does not harm the nation or incites violence, it does not amount to sedition.
"When you are a modern democratic state, you have to be mature about criticism. Criticism is good," Naved said, while expressing hope that JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested on sedition charges, will come out clear.
Addressing the class, Shillong-based filmmaker Tarun Bhartiya said that while some people have objected to slogans like "Bharat ki barbadi", Meghalaya is already witnessing "barbadi" (destruction).