Apex Court rejected a plea asking it to reexamine the constitutional validity of Section 124A of IPC, which deals with sedition related cases.
The law came in the year 1837 by Thomas Macaulay, the British historian and politician, but was omitted when the IPC was enacted in the year1860.
Section 124A was put in 1870 by an constitutional amendment act that was introduced by Sir James Stephen when he felt the need for a special section to deal with these kinds of offences. It was one of the many draconian colonial laws that were enacted to stifle any voices of dissent at colonial times.
The first case was registered in the year 1891, when Jogendra Chandra Bose, editor of a newspaper named ‘Bangobasi’ was charged for publishing an article which criticised “Age of Consent Bill”.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, the Ali Brothers, Maulana Azad, Gandhi and many others suffered imprisonment under this draconian law.
The viewpoint of the Law Commission of India on Sedition
In its 39th Report (1968), the LC had outrightly rejected the idea of repealing the section.
In its 42nd Report (1971), the panel wishes the scope of the section to be expanded to cover the whole Constitution, the legislature and the judiciary, in addition to the government established by law.
In 267th Report (2017), the LC distinguished between sedition and hate speech, providing that the offence of hate speech affects the State indirectly by disturbing public tranquillity, while the sedition is an offence against the State.
In 2018, the Law Commission published a consultation paper recommending that it is time to re-negotiate or repeal Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that deals with sedition.
In the recent consultation paper submitted on the sedition, the Law Commission has argued invoking 124A to only criminalize acts conducted with the intention to disrupt public order or to overthrow the State government with violence and illegal means.
Indian Penal Code suggests sedition (Section 124A) as an offence committed only when any person brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection for the Indian government established by law in India by:
o words either spoken or written
o visible representation or otherwise
‘Disaffection’ includes disloyalty and all the feelings of enmity.
The Sedition case comes under the Offences Against State category that includes cases filed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, damage to property Act, Official Secrets Act etc.
It is one of the non-bailable offences, Punishment ranges from imprisonment up to 3 years to a life term, to which will be added.
A person charged under this law is barred from any government job. They have to live without their passport and must bring themselves in court at all times as and when it is required.