Is Sedition Law Relevant Today?

After a while everything becomes obsolete, even the laws. A law made 150 years ago is still ruling and not amended. In 1870, Britishers introduced sedition law in Indian penal code which criminalizes any act that tries to bring into hatred or excites disaffection towards the government established by law in India.

Section 124-a of IPC is where this law is stated. The punishment prescribed for sedition varies from

  • Fine ,
  • Imprisonment for three years and it
  • Even extend up to imprisonment for life.

It is a non- bailable offence. A person charged under this law can’t apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court when is required. [i]

[ii] In 2010 sedition cases were 52 % , they have increased to 105% in 2020. Until 2014, National Crime records Bureau didn’t begin reporting sedition cases as a separate category.

 NCRB works on principle offence method that means if there is crime (involving sedition) which also includes either rape or murder, then the case will be classified under that offense rather than sedition. This means that sedition law has been invoked like extra cheese on people.

Article 19 (1)(A) guarantees freedom of speech and expression to every individual but law of sedition is fighting tooth and nail in curbing it.

Sedition law in other countries:

It is very clear from the trends that developing or semi –developed countries still have legislation against sedition. For instance: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Malaysia have sedition laws.

Whereas, UK abolished it in 2002 after campaign against such laws. A form of sedition law also exists in United States, but freedom of speech enshrined in US constitution means that it is rarely invoked. Freedom of speech is enshrined in our constitution as well but government uses sedition law as a means to exploit this right of citizens. Above the fundamental rights of citizen, implementing laws to protect government from falling off is important nowadays. Every government gets against it but only when opposition is in power.

 VALIDITY OF LAW ON SEDITION:

In 1962 , validity of 124-a was upheld in KEDARNATH SINGH V/S STATE OF BIHAR  case since it was need of the hour. At that time to stop public disorder the apex court upheld it’s validity , but today several legislation has been made to keep the law and order maintained.thus, implementation of this laws in not necessary . The protector of laws also stand against it rather than with it.

Recently, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves challenged the validity of sedition law, saying that it is being used as intimidation tactic. “THE STATE is terrorizing young people by using the law and putting them behind the bars”. Mr. Gonsalves said the process is itself the punishment ,rather than a trial or a conviction.

JUSTICE DEEPAK GUPTA, the retired supreme court judge in an interview said that section 124-a is being misused by government  and cases of its misuse are increasing “exponentially”. He also said that the law should be immediately abolished.

JUSTICE DEEPAK GUPTA , the retired supreme court judge in an interview said that section 124-a is being misused by government  and cases of its misuse are increasing “exponentially”. He also said that the law should be immediately abolished.

Constitution was formed in 1947, by constituent assembly comprising of Indians, but when reviewing was required a National Commission to review the working of the Constitution (NCRWC) was formed by the government. In the same manner situation has arisen to review sedition law and it has become the need of the hour.

It’s a relief that supreme court has finally agreed to examine the relevance of this law in present times after a plea was challenged by two journalists – Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha from Manipur and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla from Chhattisgarh — on the grounds that the law violates the fundamental right of speech and expression.[iii]The plea was admitted by bench of UU LALIT, INDIRA BANERJEE, and KM JOSEPH.

Not only this court have on numerous occasions cautioned law agencies not to misuse the provisions on sedition, but they were grossly ignored. Thus administration of this law is where problem lies.

Expressing the opinion:

Every person express their discontent in different ways. Some write it down, some blurt it out, and some stay silent. Government wants the young people to stay shut or else they charge them with law of sedition. This law created havoc recently in society.  Even after being part of world’s largest democracy, sedition law has exerted chilling effect on the democratic freedom of individuals who cannot enjoy their legitimate democratic right and freedom owing to fear of life imprisonment. Being opinionated means one should be ready to be covered in shackles of prison. If you are fearless enough to express your discontent, you will be imprisoned. Right to protest is something that gets linked up with this law. There is a thick line difference between being violent and creating public nuisance and expressing opinion in civilized way and until the protest is done in a non-violent way it is not crime

Delhi court also observed “it can’t be invoked to quiten any disquiet under the pretence of muzzling miscreants”[iv]

CONCLUSION:

Valiant people filed the petition,

Were arrested under the section of sedition

Most of them were young, full of ambition.

they were  practicing their freedom of speech and expression

The government didn’t like this motion

and wanted to teach them a life lesson

thus, called their opinions a treacherous mission

and booked them under the section of sedition.

It is high time that this evil to society should be abolished or else India will be called democratic nation just on papers .


[i] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-is-sedition-law-explainer/articleshow/73168127.cms

[ii] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-56111289

[iii] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-plea-challenging-sedition-law-1796785-2021-04-30

[iv] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/farmers-protest-law-sedition-cannot-be-invoked-quieten-disquiet-says-delhi-court-1769954-2021-02-17


Author: Kusum Kapuria, Alumni of Kalindi College, Delhi University.


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