Relevance of sedition law

In this editorial, articles published in The Hindu, The Indian Express, Business Line etc. are analyzed. This article also discusses the sedition law, its history and its relevance in present times. In-place team vision inputs are also included, as needed.

The reference
sedition law : Recently, a lower court in Bihar directed to register a case of treason under Section 124A of the IPC against 49 eminent persons, including noted historian Ramchandra Guha. It is noteworthy that all the above persons wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India expressing concern over mob violence or mobilizing. The court gave this decision while hearing the petition which alleged that the letter was tarnishing the image of the country on the international stage. This whole incident has made section 124A related to treason a matter of discussion again and it is necessary to consider the relevance of this law at the present time.

Section 124A and treason

  • Treason in the country is defined in section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • According to Section 124A of the IPC, by words or gestures spoken or written, or by visual presentation, whoever shall incite or attempt to incite hatred or contempt for the Government established by law in India, shall cause disaffection or Will try to do, he will be punished with life imprisonment or imprisonment up to three years and with fine or both.
    • According to Section 124A, Disaffection refers to all kinds of feelings of hatred and hatred.
  • This section of the IPC makes it clear that it is not a crime to make any kind of critical comment against the government or the administration.
  • In India, treason is a cognizable offense, that is, it does not require warrant for arrest, there is no provision for mutual reconciliation between the two parties.
  • As per section 124A, it is a non-bailable offense.
  • Punishment under this section cannot be punished until the offense is proved.
  • It is noteworthy that during the entire process of the trial, the passport is seized from the person who is accused, apart from this, he cannot get any government job during this time. Also, he has to appear in court from time to time.

History of sedition law

  • The sedition law in England was enacted in the 17th century, as the then lawgivers there believed that any negative view or commentary against the government and the empire could be harmful to power.
  • The origin of the Sedition Law in India dates back to the 19th century Wahhabi movement.
    • It was an Islamic revivalist movement led by Syed Ahmed Barelvi.
  • The law was originally drafted by British historian and politician Thomas Macaulay in the year 1837, but when the IPC came into force in the year 1860, it was not included in the law.
  • When Sir James Stephen felt the need for a specific section to deal with crime in the year 1870, he included section 124A in the IPC under the IPC (Amendment) Act, 1870.
  • The British government used this law to convict and punish many freedom fighters.
  • This law was first used in the year 1891 against Jogendra Chandra Bose, the editor of a newspaper, as he was accused of writing an article against the British government.
  • It is worth mentioning that under this law, Mahatma Gandhi was also sued for sedition on account of his writings in Young India.
  • When the case of treason was filed against Mahatma Gandhi in the year 1922, he said that “I know many great people have been prosecuted so far under this law and that’s why I see it as an honor for myself . “
sedition law
sedition law

Treason related issues

Maharani Vs Bal Gangadhar Tilak – 1897
Perhaps the most famous cases of treason in history have been the freedom fighters of our country against colonial rule. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a staunch supporter of India’s independence, was accused of treason twice. The first was in 1897 when one of his speeches allegedly incited others to violent behavior and resulted in the death of two British officers. Then in the year 1909, when he wrote an anti-government article in his newspaper Kesari.

Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar – 1962
This case was the first case of treason in any court of independent India. In this case, for the first time, the constitutionality of the sedition law in the country was challenged and while hearing the case, the court also clarified the difference between the country and the government of the country. Kedar Nath Singh, a member of the Forward Communist Party in Bihar, was accused of making a speech to condemn the then ruling government and to call for revolution. In this case, the court had clearly stated that under any circumstances criticizing the government would not be counted as treason.

Aseem Trivedi vs State of Maharashtra – 2012
Controversial political cartoonist and activist, Aseem Trivedi, best known for his anti-corruption campaign (Cartoons Against Corruption), was arrested in 2010 on charges of treason. Many of his colleagues believed that Asim Trivedi has been accused of treason because of his anti-corruption campaign.

Should the sedition law be repealed?

  • Opponents of the sedition law believe that it defies the core principle of Gandhi philosophy, the right to dissent.
  • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru made it clear in Parliament that the relevant penal provision of section 124A is “highly objectionable and obnoxious and the sooner we get rid of it, the better.”
  • Section 124A is a relic of colonial heritage and is unsuitable in a democracy. It questions the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
  • For a vibrant democracy, it is necessary to give place to criticism and dissatisfaction with the government, but many times the wrong use of this law does not allow such a possibility.
  • The British, who first implemented this law, have also abolished this law from their own country, due to which we have no reason to carry the burden of this old law even today.
  • There have also been many instances of improper use of sedition law in the country.
    • Statistics from the Union Home Ministry show that between 2014 and 2016, a total of 179 people were arrested under this law and only 2 of them could be convicted.
  • Today, this law has become so popular among governments that a sedition law was imposed on a village in Kundakulam in Tamil Nadu, because they were not in favor of setting up a nuclear plant there.
  • In 2014, sedition law was also introduced in Jharkhand against the tribals opposing displacement.

Argument in favor of law

  • Proponents of the sedition law say that section 124A of the IPC has the ability to counter anti-national, separatist and terrorist elements.
  • It avoids attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government by violence and illegal means. It is known that the permanent existence of a government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the state.
  • He says that if the punitive action is correct for contempt of court, then punitive action should be taken even for contempt of government.
  • Today, various states are facing Maoist insurgency and this law is necessary to deal with them.

Law Commission’s view on treason

  • In its 39th report in 1968, the Law Commission rejected the idea of ​​repealing the clause.
  • In its 42nd report of 1971, the Law Commission wanted the scope of this section to be expanded to cover the Constitution, legislature and judiciary.
  • In August 2018, the Law Commission of India published a consultation paper recommending that it is time to reconsider and repeal Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code relating to treason.

Road ahead

  • The definition of treason should be narrowed, which should only include topics such as India’s territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the country.
  • Criticizing the government or government policies cannot be called treason, so a case of treason should be filed only when a person or a group questions the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.
  • Civil society should take the responsibility of raising awareness about the arbitrary use of sedition law.

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