A lot has happened since the receipt from Mumbai's Aditi Restaurant got leaked sometime yesterday. Some took it as a harmless joke meant for a moment's worth of laughter, while others were praising the restaurant for hitting the nail on the head.
What the message read was "AS PER UPA GOVT EATING MONEY (2G, COAL, CWG SCAM) IS A NECESSITY & EATING FOOD IN AC RESTAURANT IS A LUXURY."
Copy of the receipt
The Youth Congress went and shut down the shop. The Congress spokesperson released an official statement saying that they would check if the receipts issued by the shop amount to defamation. Immediately, the world seemed to have turned anti-Congress since apparently the same UPA Government which had criticized the Shiv Sena for the arrest of two girls over a facebook post cannot handle a joke when it is directed at them.
After that there are several allegations which have cropped up, including the fact that the restaurant owner is a politician, and BJP's open criticism of the way the UPA government functions, followed by 65 MPs writing to Mr. Obama not to grant Narendra Modi a US Visa, and among them many, including CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, claiming that their signature on the letter had been forged and the BJP terming it as a dirty trick of the Congress. Anyway. I am going to set aside these political jokers, and try and objectively look into what was done by the workers at Aditi Restaurant and the possible repercussions.
Before I go any further, let me clarify that I do not support the Congress. Never have, never will. But I was hugely disappointed at Sitaram Yechury's statement that his signature on the letter to President Obama is forged. The least I'd expect from the Communist Party leader would be to at least vehemently oppose anything which goes in favour of the right winged fanatics. But then again, maybe Yechury's blood isn't half as red as Marx's.
Back to the topic at hand: the receipts which were issued by Aditi Restaurant.
Despite all that is being said, here is why I feel that the Congress have a strong case against the owners of the restaurant.
Firstly, defamation. Defamation is defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. It reads,
" Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person."
Going strictly by the definition provided, the manager and owner of Aditi Restaurant might be held liable and be forced to pay compensation to the Congress government. After all, the statement published at the bottom of the receipt isn't exactly one which will do the Congress' reputation wonders, and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
At this juncture, I also want to bring to the forefront, Article 124 A of the Indian Penal Code. This article talks about sedition and states,
" Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, a shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine."
Even in this case, all the elements which constitute sedition are present, since the current UPA government is the lawfully elected government in India. At this time, let me clarify. This particular article of the IPC allows for constructive criticism of the government and does not count that under the ambit of sedition as long as it does not incite hate, contempt or dissatisfaction. However, in this case, the actions of the management of Aditi Restaurant do not seem as if they have been made with bona fide interests in mind, which might not work in their favour, if this matter manages to reach the courts of law.
The current scenario calls for a probe into Aditi Restaurant to check what were the intentions behind printing receipts with hate messages. Meanwhile, with the way the NaMo social media team has been campaigning for the 2014 general elections, I will not be surprised if all of this turns out to be another one of Modi's plans to gain some foothold at the Centre.