Chennai: In a major relief to MDMK chief Vaiko, the Madras High Court Thursday suspended the one-year sentence awarded to him by a lower court in a 2009 sedition case.
Justice P D Audikesavalu, before whom the appeal filed by Vaiko came up, suspended the sentence imposed by a special court on July 5.
Counsel for Vaiko argued that there was no audio or video evidence produced by the prosecution to prove the charge of sedition under Indian Penal Code section 124 A and even the witnesses produced were only police personnel and no public witnesses were produced.
Public prosecutor A Natarajan submitted that Vaiko himself has admitted to making such speech.
Refusing to restrain Vaiko from giving such speeches against the sovereignty of the State, as sought by the public prosecutor, the court instead asked the counsel for Vaiko to advise his client to be responsible while making public speeches pending disposal of the appeal.
In his petition, Vaiko said the special court for trial of MPs and MLAs had erred in its interpretation of 124 A (sedition) with regard to the words he had spoken in support of the banned LTTE.
What he had spoken "must be judged objectively and from standards reasonable to strong minded, firm and courageous men and not those of weak and vacillating minds," he said.
Vaiko, a Rajya Sabha member, submitted that the trial court erroneously rested its conclusion based on inadmissible evidence. He referred to the order of the lower court and said the proof of guilt of the accused is very much on the prosecution.
The MDMK leader submitted that as per Article 20(3) of the Constitution, no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Vaiko further said the charge sheet filed before the lower court had many sentences that he had levelled accusations against India.
The petitioner said the expression of sympathy to Eelam Tamils cannot be said to be an act of bringing hatred or disaffection towards the government established by law and that the charge under Section 124 A of IPC does not contain anything that he had done anything against the government.
Vaiko alleged that the entire prosecution was vitiated and no conviction could be based on the charge and sought to set aside the judgement of the lower court. On July 5, the special court found him guilty under IPC section 124 A (sedition) and he was sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for a year.
Judge J Shanthi held held him guilty of sedition since his "hatred" speech came under the scope of creating disaffection against the government, which is covered in Section 124 A.
Vaiko's counsel, quoting provisions, including the Representation of the People Act, had said there was no legal impediment to his client contesting the Rajya Sabha polls.
Following a plea, the sentence was subsequently stayed for a month for enabling him file an appeal against the order. On July 11, Vaiko and six others were elected unopposed in the biennial elections to Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu.
The prosecution case was that Vaiko's speech on July 15, 2009, while releasing the Tamil version (Kutram Saaturgiren) of his English book "I accuse" on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, was against the Indian government, attracting the offence of sedition.