The Biggest problem with sedition law in India today.

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Section 124A of IPC sedition law

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 India, a 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.
Read more: http://devgan.in/indian_penal_code/section/124A/#ixzz4O71Te7eE

Explanation 1.—The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.

 

Explanation 2.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the meas­ures of the Government with a view to obtaining their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

 

Explanation 3.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the admin­istrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.’

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 landmark cases

This is the basic definition of the sedition law. Other than this a landmark case that defined the scope of sedition law was Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, in this case the sedition law was held to be constitutionally valid by the supreme court of India, gaining its validity on the basis of section 19(2) of the Constitution relating to freedom of individuals which allowed for reasonable restrictions on this freedom. The Supreme Court held in this case that an act was seditious only when the seditious speech tended to incite violence or public disorder. Even words that spoke against the government as long as they were not inciting violence were deemed to not be sedition.

 

Another important case is that of Shreya Singhal vs. The Union of India, in which the government has distinguished between “advocacy” and “incitement”, with only the latter being punishable by law.

The effect of sedition law

Many people have argued that from a historical point of view this law needs to be removed due to its use by the British in colonial India to repress the freedom of the people to protest against wrongs of the government, with people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak among various others being charged and convicted under this law.

 

This section is also criticised on the basis that the people’s freedom of speech is hindered unnecessarily by it. The Supreme Court in its judgement though has considered the restriction to be reasonable.

 

The biggest problem this law is facing today though is not a question of the freedom of the people under sedition law or the historical context of sedition law, but rather, the misuse of this law by people and government agencies. In 2014 alone, according to the National Crimes Bureau, 47 sedition cases were reported from all over India, in which a total number of 58 people were arrested, and out of all of these people, only one was convicted. sedition law is a law which has been used to stop people from giving their opinion when it is critical of those in power or is of public opinion at the time.

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In recent years, many examples of this can be found such as that of Aamir Khan who found himself charged with sedition when he spoke of his wife wanting them to move out of India. The case of Divya Spandana ( Also known by the name Ramya) who was charged with sedition after she stated that Pakistan was not hell after returning from a trip to the country. Amnesty International, which was accused of having anti-India slogans shouted at a debate organised by it in Bangalore on the issue of Kashmir. These are just a few of the famous cases that have taken place although the total number is far higher.

 

As stated earlier, there is a great disparity between the number of people charged under this section and the conviction rate, which shows that most people who are charged under this section of sedition law are suffering unnecessarily. Add to this the problem of the amount of time it takes to clear a case in India and the seriousness of the allegation and we can begin to comprehend the level of harm suffered by those charged under this section even though they are not guilty.

conclusion

It can be said beyond a doubt that whether the sedition law by its nature is justified or not, there is no question that in its current state it is lacking in safeguards to protect people from wrongful cases pending against them. A safeguard against wrongful allegations is the need of the hour and without it the question of the validity of the law becomes fruitless. It does not matter if a law has good intent or if its reasoning is justified, as long as it is being misused at unacceptable levels in practice.

 

References:

 

  1. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37182206
  2. http://www.dailyo.in/politics/sedition-law-kanhaiya-kumar-jawarharlal-nehru-amnesty-international-gandhi/story/1/12537.html
  3. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/education/story/indian-sedition-law/1/597316.html
  4. http://devgan.in/indian_penal_code/section/124A/
  5. http://homegrown.co.in/5-landmark-cases-that-changed-the-way-we-look-at-indias-sedition-law/
  6. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/sedition-legislation-meant-to-suppress-the-voice-of-indian-people/article7758013.ece

 

 

Dhruv Negi is a student of National Law University Patiala. He loves to read about current issues of the world. He is also interested in Writing and works as a freelance writer.

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