Sedition Law Is Threat to Personal Liberty : Supreme Court
Recently, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has questioned the Center why it should not repeal the colonial section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of sedition cases increased by 160 percent, in 2016-2019. It has been used especially against journalists and activists.
- Also, the law has been used judiciously against those who have expressed their grievances about the government’s COVID management.
- The offense of sedition is when any person, by words or gestures, causes or attempts to incite hatred or contempt for the Government otherwise established by law, or attempts to incite dissatisfaction.
- Going forward, the Supreme Court will have to re-examine the judgment in the Kedarnath case (1962). In this judgment, Section 124A was upheld in the modern context, as the State itself is using punitive legislation to impose a grave burden on the freedom of expression.
- The Law Commission of India in its consultation paper on sedition (2018) also observed that although maintaining the offense of sedition was necessary to protect national integrity. But it should not be used as a tool to prevent free expression.
Development of Law:
Sedition is a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
1870: The section of sedition was included in the IPC by the British. The British rulers used this law to suppress the demand for independence. For example, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first person to be convicted of sedition in colonial India.
- 1948: In deliberations, Indian leaders agreed to remove “sedition” from the Constitution.
- 1948: ‘Sedition’ is no longer a part of the Indian Constitution adopted on 28 November this year. However, section 124A of IPC still remained intact.
- 1951: Through the first constitutional amendment made under Article 19(12A), ‘reasonable restrictions’ were imposed on the right to freedom of expression.
- 1974: Section 124A declared a cognizable offence, which empowered the police to make arrests without warrant.
The figures for the year 2019 show that there has been an increase of 25% in sedition cases and 41% in arrests as compared to the previous year. However, only 3% of the cases have resulted in conviction.
Source – The Hindu