- There is a growing clamoring for the repeal/scrapping of the grossly archaic sedition law in the last couple of years would be tantamount to an understatement. People across cross-sections of the society – especially the press, NGOs, and civil liberty proponents – were carrying out a sustained campaign to remove the sedition law by rightfully arguing that the draconian act does not fit into the modern-day narratives anymore. For the benefit of the uninitiated, the Indian Penal Code Section 124A defines sedition as words or actions that bring or attempt to bring “hatred, contempt or disaffection” towards the government.
- The Supreme Court’s Kedar Nath Singh judgment of 1962, keenly aware that a bare reading of this provision silences legitimate free speech provided for by the Constitution, attempted to narrow sedition’s application to instances betraying an intention and tendency to cause public disorder or endanger the security of the state. As can be seen here, the words like hatred, contempt, disaffection, intention, and tendency that define the scope of sedition lend themselves to broad and subjective interpretations. No wonder, the overzealous police officers are inclined to please his/her political masters and any such nefarious instructions, these understandings become ready accessories to label virtually anyone a seditionist.
- Of course, conviction rates on these flimsy idiosyncratic grounds are very low but authorities do not seem to mind indicating that harassment of the subjects alone is the main goal. We all know that politics is a game of musical chairs and political power is not permanent either need not be reemphasized yet again. Keeping such a scenario in mind and today’s polarized discourse, the politicians should have a rethink on sedition provisions as this law can bite back on anyone. Note that yesterday’s dissenter can be today’s government minister and today’s powerful master can be tomorrow’s opposition. Therefore, it is incumbent on the part of all politicians, irrespective of party affiliations, to champion the law’s abolition.
PC: Nandita Saikia
- All those concerned stakeholders and affected lot from the sedition law can perhaps witness a silver lining on the horizon finally as efforts are afoot to get the decree junked for good. One SC bench will soon examine the constitutionality of the sedition provision, another is planning to define its limits, exasperated by frequent and absurd cases courts must-hear. This is the most welcome news for everyone who values and holds India’s democracy on a higher pedestal. The country’s press would be heaving a sigh of relief as its news outlets and journalists are mostly at the receiving end of the sedition law for airing views critical of governments.
- Accusing anyone working against the state’s interests is so easy, you see. The law’s maximum punishment is life imprisonment, no less, is by itself mirrors how it amounts to a travesty of the right to dissent. It is in the best interest of the nation that prides on encouraging Constitutionally mandated rights of speech and expression to scrap the sedition law without any further deliberations. There is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and National Security Act (NSA) meant to protect the interests of the state. The SC should bear all these factors holistically by scrapping a British-era law that should have been consigned to the dust bin long back.