India’s high court on Thursday expressed concern over law and order following widespread protests over the arrest of a student leader for sedition. Kanhaiya Kumar, the head of the student union at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, was arrested [Guardian report] last Friday for sedition for allegedly chanting ant-India slogans at a rally last week. He has denied participating in the chanting. Kumar was attacked on Wednesday on his way into court by right wing lawyers. Lawyers heading into the courthouse and journalists covering the case were also heckled. The court has stated [Tribune report] that it is “concerned about the law and order situation arising out of the violence” at the courthouse. There have also been protests in support of Kumar by those who believe this case constitutes a violation of free speech rights at universities.
Countries around the world have struggled to balance citizens’ internationally-recognized right to free speech with domestic and international security concerns. In January the former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia was ordered [JURIST report] to appear in court following charges of sedition. In May JURIST guest columnist Roy S. Gutterman noted [JURIST op-ed] that may countries throughout the world not only still have, but also actively enforce sedition laws. In April the Parliament of Malaysia announced [JURIST report] a change to the country’s sedition law, which will strengthen government intervention upon sedition activity. Also in April a Malaysia political cartoonist was charged [JURIST report] with nine counts of sedition over tweets criticizing the country’s judiciary. In March Malaysian officials arrested [JURIST report] the daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for alleged acts of sedition. She was reportedly arrested and detained specifically for a speech she made criticizing the jailing of her father.
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