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Issues surrounding sedition:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Context:

NCP chief Sharad Pawar recently created a stir with his affidavit before the Bhima Koregaon inquiry commission, wherein he said that the archaic sedition law should be repealed.

  • He said there were acts like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in place that could effectively deal with these activities.

 

Need for:

  • The section is being more misused than used these days; anyone who criticises the government is arrested under the stringent sedition.
  • In most of the cases innocents were being framed.
  • If one looks at the recent cases where the sedition charges have been invoked, then most of them are fairly covered under other law and order provisions.

 

Arguments in Support of Section 124A:

  • Section 124A of the IPC has its utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.
  • It protects the elected government from attempts to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means. The continued existence of the government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the State.
  • If contempt of court invites penal action, contempt of government should also attract punishment.
  • Many districts in different states face a maoist insurgency and rebel groups virtually run a parallel administration. These groups openly advocate the overthrow of the state government by revolution.

Against this backdrop, the abolition of Section 124A would be ill-advised merely because it has been wrongly invoked in some highly publicized cases.

 

What is sedition?

Section 124A of the IPC 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 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.”

 

Need for a proper definition?

The sedition law has been in controversy for far too long. Often the governments are criticized for using the law — Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — against vocal critics of their policies.

  • Therefore, this Section is seen as a restriction of individuals’ freedom of expression and falls short of the provisions of reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech under Article 19 of the Constitution.

The law has been in debate ever since it was brought into force by the colonial British rulers in 1860s. Several top freedom movement leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were booked under the sedition law.

  1. Mahatma Gandhi described it as the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
  2. Nehru had described it as “highly objectionable and obnoxious” which “should have no place in any body of laws that we might pass”. Nehru said, “The sooner we get rid of it the better.”

 

Relevant Supreme Court judgements:

  1. The Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962):

While dealing with offences under Section 124A of the IPC, a five-judge Supreme Court constitutional bench had, in the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962), laid down some guiding principles.

  • The court ruled that comments-however strongly worded-expressing disapprobation of the actions of the government without causing public disorder by acts of violence would not be penal.

 

  1. The Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab (1995) case:

In this case, the Supreme Court had clarified that merely shouting slogans, in this case Khalistan Zindabad, does not amount to sedition. Evidently, the sedition law is being both misunderstood and misused to muzzle dissent.

 

Current Affairs

 

 

Recent views of Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court, in June 2021, said “it is time to define the limits of sedition”.

  • The observation was made while dealing with the writ petitions filed by two news channels seeking the quashing of FIR and contempt petitions.

 

General observations made by the Court on Sedition:

  • It is time we define the limits of sedition.
  • Provisions of 124A (sedition) and 153 (promoting enmity between classes) of the IPC require interpretation, particularly on the issue of the rights of press and free speech.

 

Insta Curious:

Do you know how Mr. K.M. Mushshi’s Amendment had removed ‘Sedition’ from the Constitution And how a SC judgement brought back Sedition Law in India?

Read Here

 

Despite having so many negatives, why do we still have this law? Read here: 

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Where is sedition defined?
  2. Section 124A of the IPC is related to?
  3. Section 153 of the IPC is related to?
  4. Relevant Supreme Court judgments.
  5. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

Mains Link:

Discuss the issues associated with the imposition of Sedition law in India.

Sources: the Hindu