Crime and Punishment in BJP-ruled Goa

By Ashwin Tombat
14 February 2020 23:14 IST

The arrest of Porvorim Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte under sections 341 (wrongful restraint) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at midnight on Wednesday brings a new and troubling brand of ‘Amit Shah politics’ to Goa. Formerly Minister for Revenue, Information Technology and Labour & Employment in Manohar Parrikar’s government, Mr Khaunte created history in 2017, becoming the first Independent MLA ever to be re-elected in Goa.

Police picked up Rohan Khaunte from his home at 1 am on Thursday, based on a complaint filed by Premanand Mahambre, a BJP spokesperson. Intriguingly, Speaker Rajesh Patnekar gave his consent for the arrest of the MLA right in the middle of an Assembly session.

Mr Mahambre said that Mr Khaunte had “grabbed his hand” and “threatened” him in a verbal argument in the corridor of the Legislative Assembly.

Does that warrant arrest?

When ordinary people are attacked and even badly beaten up; as long as the injuries are ‘minor’ in the opinion of the police, only a non-cognisable offence (NC) is registered, and no arrests are ever made. Here, neither hurt has been alleged, nor wrongful restraint. They are obviously trumped-up charges.

Former Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane was walking with the MLA when this so-called encounter happened. He told the media: “As Rohan (Khaunte) and I were walking together, a complete outsider came into the precincts of the House and confronted him verbally.”

Premanand Mahambre’s own account of events does not support the charges that the police have filed on Mr Khaunte. Mr Mahambre is a good man. A former headmaster, he was Sarpanch of Chorao for 16 years. He is the founder of the Chodan-Madel Farmers’ Club, which has successfully revived agriculture and orchardry in the village.

Mr Mahambre needs to stand up and say that the police action in this case has been excessive and disproportionate. Otherwise, one can only conclude that he is under pressure from his BJP bosses to make ‘Amit Shah politics’ his own.

Elsewhere in the country, anyone that opposes the central government is being called ‘anti-national’. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently announced that those shouting slogans of ‘Azaadi’ would be arrested and charged with sedition.

On Wednesday, a Mumbai Sessions Court rejected the anticipatory bail application of a 22-year-old student booked under Section 124A IPC (Sedition) along with 50 others. The sedition charge was filed for shouting of slogans opposing the arrest of another student who was arrested for sedition. The court ruled that this slogan too, “attracts the ingredients of sedition”.


The Supreme Court, in Kedar Nath vs State of Bihar (1962), clearly ruled that "a person could be prosecuted for sedition only if his acts caused incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace". Note that the judgment talks of ‘acts’, not words. In September 2016, the Supreme Court reiterated these points and said they should be followed by all authorities.

Still, governments regularly arrest people for ‘sedition’. The National Crime Records Bureau records 179 arrests for sedition between 2014 and 2016. No charge sheets were filed by the police in over 70 per cent of the cases, and only two ended in conviction.

However, all of them spent time in jail. Those charged with sedition have to live without their passports. They are barred from government jobs. They must appear in court whenever required. They have to spend lakhs of rupees on legal fees. It is pure harassment. The process itself is the punishment.

It is time the Supreme Court prescribes disciplinary action against policemen and magistrates who knowingly and deliberately violate the provisions laid down in Kedar Nath vs State of Bihar. Otherwise, such injustices will only multiply. 

In a strikingly similar move, Police registered an FIR against officials of the Church-led Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) and the National Human Rights Organisation (Goa) under the Goa Children’s Act and the Juvenile Justice Act for the presence of children at their anti-CAA rally in Margao on 24 January, for allegedly exposing them to “political ideology”. This was a result of a complaint by Emidio Pinho of the NGO ‘Scan’, who also happens to head the government’s Victims Assistance Unit (VAU).

However, no complaint was filed against the pro-CAA rally by students of the Vidya Prabhodini School, which is run by Goa RSS leaders. School students are alleged to have marched in uniform, led by their teachers…

That’s ‘Amit Shah politics’!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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