Anachronistic Sedition Law Should Not Have Any Place in the Modern World!

  • Of late, this debate is spanning several states in the country largely owing to the government in power taking umbrage under the sedition act to suppress voices of dissent and criticism. People in the know would vouch about the minuscule use of the act during earlier times. However, it has seen an exponential increase in the last few years. Of course, the Supreme Court is appraised of the situation since several petitions questioning the legality of the continuation of the act reached its portals. Staying on the subject, the Supreme Court’s decision last year to hear pleas that the sedition law no longer passes constitutional muster was based on a strong concern about the enormous power of misuse of the law.

PC: DNA Web Team

  • People closely following the evolving situation were hoping that the Government of India would support the calls for repealing the law in toto. However, the Government appears to be in no mood to proceed in such a direction as its written submission to the court last week forcefully argued that the 1962 Kedar Nath judgment is a good law, needing no reconsideration, and the remedy for any abuse lies in preventing it on a case-to-case basis. Such a stand adopted by the Union Government is not only unacceptable but defeats the very purpose of upholding progressive law in line with the fast-changing aspirational society that India wishes to be.
  • Further, in arriving at this position, the Union Government seems to sidestep the issue of how Section 124A of IPC has become so synonymous with arbitrary application that abuse of law is now its default rather than a fringe condition. Look at the available statistics. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of cases filed under Section 124A rose by 160% even as the rate of conviction dropped to a mere 3%. In one telling instance, a sedition case was so insubstantial that the Allahabad high court told the state and the police that the unity of India is not made of bamboo reeds which will bend to the passing winds of empty slogans and the foundations of our nation are more enduring. Can anything be more scathing than this particular observation?

PC: Srishti Ojha

  • Note that rather than protecting these foundations 124A arguably weakens them by discouraging dissent, the safety valve of democracy. Remember, questioning and critiquing are critical to keeping various democratic institutions responsive to citizen needs and holding them accountable. Arguments put forth by the Government that the challenge to the 1962 constitution bench’s verdict should be decided by a larger bench originated in virtuous theory and praxis, and this may well be where the case is headed. Mind you, subsequent stringent legislation such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and the National Security Act, 1980 make an 1870 colonial and anti-independence law superfluous.
  • Understandably, what has to be recognized is that a law that has withstood the test of time is not by definition a good law. It is imperative the world over and in India to overturn juridical traditions that fall out of step with evolving societal mores. As such, petitioners are right to say that there has been a sea change in jurisprudence since 1962. Definitely, a sedition law whose vague language invites arbitrary and frequently motivated application, which is expedient for police or the state but oppressive for many citizens, is more than ready for binning. Indeed, it is worth reiterating that the SC must rid India of a law the country doesn’t need at all.

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Krishna MV
Krishna is a Post Graduate with specialization in English Literature and Human Resource Management, respectively. Having served the Indian Air Force with distinction for 16 years, Armed Forces background definitely played a very major role in shaping as to who & what he is right now. Presently, he is employed as The Administrator of a well known educational institute in Bangalore. He is passionate about sharing thoughts by writing articles on the current affairs / topics with insightful dissection and offering counter / alternate views thrown in for good measure. Also, passionate about Cricket, Music – especially vintage Kannada & Hindi film songs, reading – non-fictional & Self-Help Books, and of course, fitness without compromising on the culinary pleasures.