The application of Penal Code to halt the India Out movement, a movement that calls for the ouster of Indian military officials and an end to secretive agreements between the Governments of Maldives and India, is a distortion and misappropriation of the law.
The “India Out” movement was criminalized on Thursday by a Presidential decree. The decree states that the India Out movement was a movement based on hate speech and hate directed against India, and as such, deemed a direct threat to national security by the third session of the National Security Council. The movement, the decree adds, was a subversion of free speech and would mar the relationship between the two nations, development of the Maldives and effect the attempts to sustain regional peace and stability.
The decree referenced Clause 615 of the Penal Code, and as such, is being used to remove banners supporting the movement.
Clause 615 (a) (6) defines disorderly conduct as “A person commits an offence, if knowing his conduct will harass, annoy, or alarm another person in public” by creating “a hazardous, physically offensive, or seriously alarming condition by an act that serves no legitimate purpose”.
This clause comes under clause 610 of the Code. The clause defines what constitutes as public safety and conduct.
Professor Paul H. Robinson, who had extensively studied Maldivian Penal Code, said the purpose of this clause was to protect individuals from such actions. The law relates to the individual and any legal action must come from the individual. Professor Robinson concurs that any state agency cannot initiate proceedings under this clause.
The purpose of the clause is the protection of the individual, and as such, must be used to for the protection of the individual, Professor Robinson added in his commentary.
Lawyers speaking to TMJ, said that this clause cannot be used to criminalize a political movement. Application of this clause in this manner is, he said, a dangerous issue.
“With this distortion, there’s nothing barring the authorities from raising charges against any protestors, isn’t it? There’ll always be someone who’s frightened of protests. When the law is interpreted like this, it’s the government who declares a group is frightened. And then raise charges,” he said.