Temporary abeyance of sedition law, a small victory?

Updated: May 17

Do you know what is common in Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar, Bhagat Singh, and Gandhi?

All have faced charges of sedition.

The colonial sedition law (Section 124 A) of the Indian Penal Code has been kept in abeyance by the Supreme Court's interim judgement on Wednesday. This accounts for the suspension of all pending trials and court proceedings in the 356 registered cases under this law. Ever since its introduction in 1870 by the then British government under Viceroy Thomas Macaulay, the operation of the provision has been temporarily suspended for the very first time. Well, after independence 'Sedition' was no longer a part of the Indian Constitution adopted on November 26

,1950 however section 124A remained in the IPC.

The very first amendment during Nehruvian era, in Article 19 added the phrase in further clauses "reasonable restrictions" on the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, in the1962 historical judgement, of Kedar Nath Singh Vs. Union Of India Case, the constitutional bench upheld the validity of the sedition law but sanctioning penalisation on only words that may led to disruption of the government established by law or that seems to incite violence with this intent.

However, the intention with which the law was enacted by our colonial masters is no secret from anybody. But the question at hand is that, how come the law has been operational ever since then. When the ones who gave us this law already abolished it in 2009. Are the ones who have been practising the usage of this law, have had the same intentions of continuing with the same, as the ones who formulated it?

You might be wondering what's the problem behind getting charged with sedition if you print a wrong map of India, or do not stand up when the national anthem is played in a cinema hall, or merely like a Facebook post allegedly calling a yoga guru 'fraud', cheering for a rival cricket team, drawing cartoons of politicians or refusing to chant a slogan.

But is this what sedition means?

Are these really grounds for sedition?

Of course, at least for some of us, it was until now, or even after this who knows.

In times like these, when voices of dissent are being termed as 'anti-national' 'anti-state' 'separatist' and the list goes on. How would the government ensure the rights of the accused? In a state where our highly responsible citizens of the state, without even waiting for the court verdict which gets delayed for what seems like an eternity, declare someone as 'Deshdrohi'. Even though the government itself is under scrutiny in this case, still it has been given the authority and time by the court to re-examine the law. Had it been so considerate about the idea of freedom of speech and expression of the citizens, the law would have already been scrapped ever since the time it came into power.

And not to mention, India's ranking in the World Freedom Index says it all.

But never mind, lets keep that debate for some other day.

Used by people in power indiscriminately by almost all the previous and of course the current government to crush dissent of any kind, if this is not clear to us then on records, Hindu Nationalist Praveen Togadia, Former Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley have also been charged with sedition in the past and the list goes on.

Who will bring the prosecuted party's lost time back, who will bring them and their family back from the amount of agony and trauma that they might have faced for being accused of indulging in seditious activities on mere criticism. As per section 124A, sedition is a non-bailable offence, punishable with imprisonment from three years up to life, along with a fine. The person charged under this law is also barred from a government job and their passport is seized by the government. Had the union minister of Law , himself made clear beforehand, that where exactly to draw the "Lakshman Rekha" things would have not turned out to be this way.

Today on records, according to the NCRB's reports,

548 people were arrested from 2015-2020,with just six convictions so far. Also it is again not just the centre which has been accussed of misusing the same but states like Bihar and Jharkhand are equally on the top of these charts.

But interesting fact to note here is that Hypocrisy ki bhi koi seema hoti hai.

While submitting its written defence before the Supreme Court, the Centre earlier this week said that there is no need to review the validity of the sedition law. Yes, in clear words adding on that the constitution bench judgment in the Kedar Nath case in 1962, which, it said, remains a “good law”. But has now come up with a defence of re-examing the same.

Which all in all, by whatever means even if criticised, is still a small victory.

Now why a small victory?

Because the law talks about excitation or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government estab­lished by law", unlike the UAPA that talks about the "territorial integrity and sovereignty". The idea of calling something 'seditious' here comes under question, even though the phrase 'inciting violence' was strongly emphasised for something being seditious in the 1962 judgement.

However, both laws are under citizens' scrutiny for being misused.

More importantly the recent cases, as the SG mentioned, "There may be 124A along with other offences, may be some (money) laundering, may be some terrorist angle, so many angles, we do not know fact, the situation and gravity.”

And under the recent cases of the separatist leader 'Yasin Malik' and many others the question may arise.

But at least for the time being the only thing we may expect for now on, is the government's re- examination. However, the petitioners are fighting for the scrapping of this section.

This is the original article.

This article's edited version has also been published in the Staff Picks of YouthKiAwaaz for Government and Human Rights Genre.

Refer the same for further clarification of the arguments proposed here.

38 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All