15 Jul Sedition – a curse on Indian Democracy
Sedition – a curse on Indian Democracy – Today Current Affairs
Section 124A of the IPC says that anyone either by words or by signs, or otherwise attempts to bring any hatred or contempt or excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with life imprisonment.
- The law was originally drafted by Thomas Macaulay to curb Wahabi Movement in Patna & Islamic Revivalist movement led by Syed Ahmed Barelvi. However, many Indian freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, were charged with sedition under the section.
- Sedition was part of reasonable restrictions under 19(2) in the draft constitution but was later on dropped on the suggestion of the K.M Munshi.
Today Current Affairs
- NCRB data has revealed that sedition cased has jumped twice since 2014. Still, it accounts for less than 0.01% of all IPC crimes. Assam and Jharkhand have emerged as sedition hotspot.
- In 2018, there were more than 1000 cases registered under UAPA in five states (Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Jharkhand and Manipur.
Mahatma Gandhi : The Hindu Analysis
Mahatma Gandhi described it as the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
Supreme Court judgements : The Hindu Analysis
- Kedernath vs. State of Bihar, 1962: The Court ruled that the mere criticism of the government or comments on the administration — however vigorous or ill-informed — is not sedition and that incitement to violence is the essential ingredient of that offence.
- In Balwant Singh v/s State of Punjab 1993: SC on the pro Khalistani Slogans, held that the casual raising of such slogans a couple of times by the individuals do not tantamount to sedition.
- Nazir Khan vs. NCT of Delhi, 2003: The court said that it is the fundamental right of every citizen to have his own political theories and ideas and to propagate them so long as he does not seek to do so by force and violence or contravene any provision of law.
Thus, shouting slogans like Pakistan or Khalistan zindabad, per se, would not attract Section 124-A. Even criticism of the SC judgment upholding the conviction of Afzal Guru also would not attract Section 124-A. However if a person has says “Hindustan Murdabad”, or that it is necessary to overthrow Indian State, that could possibly amount to sedition. The Hindu Analysis
The problem is that it has often been misused by ill-informed and over enthusiastic prosecuting agencies who are against any criticism of the government. For example, Kanhaiya Kumar and Hardik Patel has been slapped with sedition charges. Also, in the year 2014, some of the Kashmiri students were charged with sedition for supporting Pakistan in a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
Pro : The Hindu Analysis
- This is an effective check and a safety valve.
Recent Evolution : The Hindu Analysis
S.G. Vombatkere Versus Union of India:
- In an interim order, the Court ordered the Centre and State governments not to file any FIRs under the aforementioned clause while it was being re-considered.
- All outstanding trials, appeals, and actions relating to charges brought under Section 124 A should be put on hold.
Opinions of Neera Chandhoke : The Hindu Analysis
Public universities are not a teaching shop but open spaces where students assemble and discuss political predicaments, with co-students of different regions of the country.
Through these activities, students become familiar with the notion of citizenship, they connect with others, they learn their constitutional right to challenge the power of elected representatives. It is in the university that they absorb the virtue of solidarity. It is here that they learn that in a democracy they have the right to make their own histories, even if they make these histories badly.
She believes that political equality is inadequate without social and economic equality. So she opines that students in past have been the agents of changes and they should raise voices to bring forth the ills of the society, and debate and discuss issues that affects the daily life without fear and favour.
Thus, the remedy does not lie in repealing Section 124-A. As there is no statutory provision which cannot be misused. The actual remedy is to lay down proper procedures to ensure legal compliance. As short term measures, following could be done:
- All speech-related offences should be made bailable and non-cognisable offences.
- In the case of hate speech, it is important to raise the burden of proof on those who claim that their sentiments are hurt rather than to accept them at face value.