SEDITION LAW IN INDIA

ABSTRACT

Uncertainty in the law of sedition has proved to be of controversial importance mainly because of the changing body politics and the fundamental right of freedom to speech guaranteed under the Constitution of India. This article insights into the emergence of sedition law differentiating it with treason. Further, some measures and amendments are suggested for protecting the interest of innocent citizens as the sedition law is being used by the political parties to gain unnecessary benefits. 

INTRODUCTION

Large no. of sedition cases got filed against the CAA protest in 2019. The CAA was passed in December 2019 and around 194 cases of sedition got filed according to a report[1]. The data recorded by NCRB shows that from 2014, the cases involving sedition started getting filed and the point of amazement is that only 4 cases actually resulted in a conviction in the last 4 years. Therefore, the statistics raise a question on the validity and usefulness of the sedition law in India. Sedition law its origin from the right of freedom to speech as guaranteed by the constitution of India and S. 124-A of the Indian Penal Code and some other statutes[2].

SEDITION AS A LAW

According to S. 124-A of the IPC, a person would be held guilty for sedition if he by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or any visible representation attempts to bring any type of hatred or contempt or excites to bring disaffection towards the Government. The basic aim of sedition law is to suppress free speech and free thought leading to disaffection, as both of it is unpopular with the government[3]. It is a punishable offence and offenders can be awarded life imprisonment and fine, or imprisonment for 3 years and fine. This offence is heinous in the eyes of the law and is a cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence. Bringing disaffection towards the government also includes the feelings of enmity and disloyalty.

The heinousness of the crime is evident by the change which took place in S.124-A. Earlier this section only includes the commission of the crime, which means the success in provoking enmity or disloyalty. But at present, S.124-A also includes an attempt to sedition, which means an attempt to bring disaffection towards the government irrespective of its success or failure is punishable.

HISTORY OF SEDITION IN INDIA

Art. 19(1) (a) of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and freedom of thoughts. This Section got invoked in a sedition case for the first time in the case of Ram Nandan V. State of UP[4]. The main issue raised was against the Sedition law questioning whether S.124-A of the IPC is ultra vires to Art. 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. The Allahabad High Court held in this case that S.124-A is ultra vires as it is restricting the right to freedom of speech.

The above decision of the Court was overruled by the High Court of Bihar in the case of Kedarnath das V. State of Bihar[5]. The Court ruled that this section is not restricting the right to freedom of speech or expression of any person, but it only restricts any act that involves intention or an attempt to create interference with law and order or instigation of violence. Other than this, all the other ideas will lie under the ambit of Article 19.

Further, after the amendment in Art. 19 (2) in 1951, any such attempt or disaffection made ‘in the interest of public order’ irrespective of the disturbance it creates in the law, such an attempt can be saved from the constitutional validity or S.124-A of the IPC. Other areas where one may find sedition law are the S.95 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, the Seditious Meetings Act 1911, and Section 2 (o) (iii) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEDITION AND TREASON LAW

Treason and Sedition are considered as same in nature but in actual, Treason is a more grievous offence as compared to sedition. Treason can be any act involving collusion with anti-national forces or terrorists in terms of providing material support to people or groups who work against the idea of one’s nation or country. More specifically, sedition prohibits the individuals to do any act in a particular manner by the means of pubic speeches or anti-national speeches that instigates people to have any anti-national views or thoughts towards the government of the country. Whereas if an individual owes an alliance in Indian govt. but commits or attempt to commit any act to betray the govt. or overthrow the govt. from its power by helping the groups or people of an enemy country in doing so, that individual would be held liable for treason.

CONTROVERSIES ON SEDITION LAW

It is a common belief that sedition law restricts free speech and free thoughts with regards to the government. Further, it is also believed that it confers the right of critiques to give their remarks and comments in good faith of the public. In the case of Nazir Khan v. State of Delhi[6], the supreme court Sedition is a crime against society and it most often precedes treason by a short interval. It involves all those practices whether written or oral or any representation that disturbs or intervene with the tranquility of the state and instigates submissive person of the country to form disaffected opinions towards the government. The sedition law aims to induce discontent and stir up opposition to the government.

It is very clear by the Union Home minister as well as the HRD Minister that insult to our country will not be tolerated in any form. Sedition law has prevailed since British time. Britishers put this law forward through clause 113 of the Draft Indian Penal Code in 1837. The urge for them to make this law at that time was to suppress the rebellion due to the spread of hatred by the Indians towards British laws.

REASONS FOR SCRAPPING THE SEDITION LAW AND MEASURES

Sedition law was made earlier framed to suppress the rebellious remarks and hatred of people towards the government of the country. But at present, this law has become a source which the political parties crave for in the process to get benefits. Further, the provisions and codes of the Indian Penal code are enough to address all the criminal threats to violence and public order. Moreover, the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has stated that the offence of sedition is originally unconstitutional and referred to as highly objectionable and obnoxious. In the case of Indra das v State of Assam[7], the Supreme Court had stated that all the sections of IPC including S.124-A of Sedition law have to be read and interpreted in such a way that it should be in conformity with the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the  Constitution as Constitution is the supreme power and authority of democratic and federal India. 

CONCLUSION

The word sedition and its usage should be done with caution. Till the time, the laws regarding sedition get revised and reconsidered, this offence should be made bailable to protect the interests of innocent citizens who usually get trapped in this vicious cycle of politics. It would reduce the harmful impact of custodial arrest and would make it easy for the citizens to exercise their fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a). Further, the offence should be made non-cognizable to enabling a judicial check on the police activities reducing unnecessary harassment of citizens. Lastly, the burden of proof should be entirely on the claimant to prove that his sentiments have been hurt in a case of hate speech and face value of such an appellant should be considered irrelevant. This will help to distinguish between the cases of hate speech and sedition.  

REFERENCES


[1] Reported by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

[2] Press Emergency Powers Act, 1931; Defence of India Rules, 34.

[3] Bilal Ahmed Kaloo V. State of Andhra Pradesh (1997) Supreme Today 127.

[4] 5 AIR 1959 All 101, 1959 CriLJ 1

[5] 1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769

[6] (2003) 8 SCC 461.

[7] Indra Das v State of Assam, (2011) 3 SCC 380.

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