Issues with sedition law

Sedition

• Offence related to the conduct or speech that is inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or government.

• Punishable under Section 124A of IPC, 1860.
 Section inserted to IPC in 1870.
 Intent of the section – To punish an act of exciting feelings of disaffection towards the government, with disaffection being
distinguished from disapprobation.
 Differentiation important for freely voicing feelings against the government
as long as they obey govt.’s lawful authority.

Issues with Sedition law

• Low conviction rate under the section 124A IPC.
 Failure to convict due to lack of evidence.

• Vague definition, especially of the term disaffection – Difficult to differentiate disaffection and disapprobation.
 Leads to simple criticism being construed sedition – Suppressing dissent.

• Affects fundamental right of freedom of speech.
 Free speech – Most significant principle of democracy, human right,
liberty.
 Yardstick used for distinguishing harm is to be ‘high’.

 Reality – Both ‘provocative’ and ‘innocuous’ speeches or writings treated as same.

Judicial interpretations enables it to continue.

Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, 1962 – SC attempted an attenuated interpretation of the provision.
 Upheld the validity of section 124A.
 Not sedition – As long as the criticism or comment of a
citizen does not incite people to violence against the
Government established by law or with the intention of
creating public disorder.
 ‘Public disorder’ considered to be a necessary ingredient
of section 124A IPC by the courts.
 Author – Lessened the severity of the section –
Restriction imposed on free speech could not be declared
unconstitutional.
• Misused by the police or govt.
 Criminalise strident political criticism and
accuse as being ‘antinational’.

 3 political reasons:
a) To suppress criticism and protests against particular policies/projects of the government.
b) To criminalise dissenting opinion of rights defenders/lawyers/activists and
journalists.
c) To settle political scores.

• Relic of colonial legacy and is unsuited in a democracy.
• Recent development –

 Supreme Court and CJI – Indicated their intention to reconsider the sedition
provision.
 Might lead to new guidelines and safeguards for using section 124A
meticulously.

Conclusion

• Section 124A should be struck down.

Categories: Editorial, Education, News, News Update

Tagged as: