Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sedition: An Anarchic Law Used to Suppress Freedom of Speech

"The following article is written by Mr. Rohan Yadav, a 3rd year law student at O.P Jindal University."
(Image taken from here.)
Sedition, defined as inciting of ‘public disorder’ or ‘hatred’ against a lawful authority, acts as a deterrent for the general public to express their views. Sedition laws mostly affect artists, media people, activists etc. The respective elected governments, politicians and ministers seem to enjoy the provisions of the sedition laws to the fullest as it acts as a shield for them. Thus living in the 21st Century there is a need for declaring Sedition as unconstitutional as it violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution which gives citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Sedition is described as an ‘offence’ in law under section 124A of Indian Penal Code as: “whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation (a) brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or (b) excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished from 3 years to life imprisonment with fine”. 
Individuals are supposed to undergo imprisonment for stating something against the State government or Central government that might amount to sedition under IPC. This clearly points out that the laws on sedition are that of an archaic nature curbing the rights of citizens. In spite of the sedition laws being criticized by famous historical leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, they are still prevalent in India.
The constitutional validity of Sedition was decided in the case of Ram Nandan v. State, where section 124A of IPC was held unconstitutional as it restricted freedom of speech and expression.   However in Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar the Supreme Court held sedition to be constitutional in which it attributed sedition to ‘incitement of violence’ and ‘disorder.’
After the judgment of the Supreme Court passed in the case of Kedar Nath, sedition laws are still being exploited to a great extent as observed in the past and recent cases. A few days ago a folk singer named Kovan was arrested in Tamil Nadu under the offense of seditionfor making fun of Jayalalitha and the issue of growing alcoholism in Tamil Nadu. RecentlyArun Jaitley was also booked under charges of sedition for criticizing the judgment of the Supreme Court on holding NJAC as unconstitutional.                                                
Considering these instances there is no doubt that people are being booked under sedition arbitrarily. Furthermore, the principles laid down in Kedarnath’s case are not being put to proper use as in both these instances the elements of sedition i.e. violence, public disorder, disaffection are not being satisfied.     
Since last year a case is going on in the Hon'ble Bombay High Court in which a PIL was filed challenging the constitutional validity of the controversial circular on sedition that was proposed by the Maharashtra government to the Bombay High court in August 2014. This indicates that the policies proposed by the Maharashtra government regarding sedition laws are still oppressive in nature and hence should be abolished altogether.
Sedition laws involving elements of hatred, disaffection etc. should be wiped off altogether as it cuts the fundamental rights of citizens.  Every person has a right to raise their views in a democratic society and if such views raised cause dissatisfaction towards the government, it should not be held as a ground to charge people under the offence of sedition. This would further demoralize others from raising their perspective as people would have the fear of getting punished under charges of sedition. In fact individuals should be given absolute liberty in expressing their opinion whether it leads to disaffection or not as by doing so people could point out to the government to adopt different policies or procedures in their methods for the functioning of the country. Thus if laws like sedition prevail, India cannot be said to be a democratic country where its citizens are promised absolute freedom of speech and expression.
Thus Supreme Court should declare sedition as unconstitutional so as to give the citizens of the country full freedom to enjoy their inherent fundamental rights enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. General public should be allowed to question the actions/ malpractices of the government or any of its ministers whether or not it amounts to disaffection or hatred in the society. This would lead to greater transparency between the government and the citizens of the country which is the need of utmost importance. It would further lead to the welfare of the society.     


Post a Comment