Misuse of Sedition Law in India

Misuse of Sedition Law in India

This is a guest blog by Rohit.
Indian Penal Code -124A (Sedition) says “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 government established by law in India shall be imprisoned for life, to which fine may be added”.
This is a nineteenth century law enacted to silence Indian natives by colonial rulers. The fact that it has been retained by the democratic government of free India is sad. Its introduction in IPC in 1870 was intended to curb the rising nationalism among the “natives”. Leaders like Gandhi and Tilak were imprisoned for sedition. In this blog we analyze the sedition law.

Sedition Law: Misuse

Governments in free India have used this code more than the British rulers. Many leaders, journalists, activists and cartoonists have been booked under sedition. Some recent examples are re JNU leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Patel leader Hardik Patel.
In many states the controversial aspect of this law is in practice. Recently Maharashtra government issued a circular to the Police directing its use. This circular was held “unconstitutional” by Bombay High court.

Interpretation of Sedition by Supreme Court

Supreme Court held Union government responsible for repealing the IPC-124A, and the abuse of Article 19.Failure to revoke this section shows the intent of the government.
In Kedarnath Vs State of Bihar in 1962 Supreme Court had said “any speech that incites violence” amounts to sedition. In various cases SC has preserved the freedom of expression of the individual. It has also been clarified that criticism of government or leaders, written or oral, unless it incites violence, in no way constitutes sedition.

Sedition Law:Prognosis

Politicians and public servants in India have continued to misuse sedition law to choke dissent and criticism which has been more in keeping with the spirit of colonial rulers and not expected of a free democratic India. It is high time that governments stop this misuse and develop the true spirit of democracy by accepting dissent and criticism of leaders and policies. This is the essence of democracy and vital for the progress of India.

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