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We as a human have developed the ability to convey our thoughts through speaking, writing, and signs. It’s upon us how we use this ability in the right way or in the wrong way. And who will decide that your conveyed thoughts are right or wrong here “Sedition” comes to play. Sedition means “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch”. It is defined under I.P.C and used against people who attempt to incite violence, contempt, or hatred towards The Government of India by discussed means of representation.
Sedition 124A was inserted into the Indian Penal Code by Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1870 after 10 years of the drafting of the IPC. According to Britishers, they wanted to add Sedition from ab initio but missed by mistake.
Sedition was added into IPC by Britishers because they were facing outrages of freedom from Indians. Indians were conducting movements, publications, speeches, and protests against Britishers for freedom. But Britishers don’t have any law to control or suppress these outrages. Therefore, they drafted this law called Sedition 124A.
“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 inIndia shall be punished withimprisonment 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”. Sedition is a non-bailable offense.
After the Independence, these were the major landmark judgments on Sedition.
- KEDARNATH SINGH VS STATE OF BIHAR (1962)
In this judgment, the Supreme court held that “a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government or its measures by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite violence”
S.C held that criticizing govt or its policies is a democratic right of every citizen of India and this doesn’t amount to sedition. If that criticism doesn’t incite any violence.
- P. ALAVI VS STATE OF KERALA (1982)
In this judgment court held that “sloganeering criticizing of Parliament or the judicial set-up did not amount to sedition”
Court held that if any citizen comes up with slogans that have remarked about Parliament or the Judiciary and don’t incite any violence will be considered as mere criticism which is a fundamental part of democracy.
- BALWANT SINGH AND ANR VS STATE OF PUNJAB (1995)
In this judgment, the Supreme court held that “Raising some slogans (“Khalistan Zindabad”) a couple of times which neither evoked any response nor any reaction from the public cannot attract such punishment of Sedition”
In This court states that if some persons raise some slogans that don’t grab any attention or don’t hurt sovereignty of the nation. Sedition cannot be done by just merely saying there must be some violence or riot that will contribute to Sedition.
Sedition is directly linked to citizens’ “Free speech and Expression” (Article-19) which is a fundamental right of every citizen of India which was discussed in the Shreya Singhal Case (2015) in which the court stated that a teenage child who wrote criticized post about govt. on Facebook doesn’t evoke any riots or violence and should not be amount to sedition.
In the past, we have seen that how our freedom fighters were charged with sedition to suppress their free speech and expression and curb freedom moment. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with Sedition for publication in Marathi magazine and opposing British Raj. Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was charged with Sedition too and according to him it was a privilege to be charged by sedition he said people should be free to express their disaffection toward the government so long as they aren’t inciting violence. Other than this Sedition has been charged on Vinod Dua (Journalist), Arundhati Roy (writer), Disha Ravi (activist), Kanahia Kumar.
As we can see Sedition was drafted to curb anti-national activities or mentalities but now it has become a draconian tool that belonged to the colonial era now used by people in power to curb free speeches, criticism against them. In several judgments court has stated that there should be a proper definition for what is sedition and what is not. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of cases filed under Section 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) increased by 160% while the rate of conviction dropped to 3.3% in 2019 from 33.3% in 2016. According to data, we can see that people are charged by sedition but later when presented above court there is no offense of sedition. It is essential to protect national integrity, but it shouldn’t be misused as a tool to curb free speeches.
So, by the above-discussed points, we need to reexamine whether we need this law or it should be demolished. Britishers drafted Sedition into IPC but the UK demolished this law in back 2009. And Sedition has been scrapped from all developed nations. But in India, it is still being used by people in power to harass people who raise voices against them. Therefore, as this law harm the democratic values of the nation we hope that this law should be used with fair purposes or should be demolished.
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 National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB)
Author: Sunandan Kaushal, BHARATI VIDYAPEETH NEW LAW COLLEGE PUNE
Editor: Kanishka Vaish, Senior Editor, LexLife India