|Introduction: Write a brief note on Section 124A of IPC|
Body: Write some reasons to abolish this section of IPC as and some arguments in support of the law.
Conclusion: Write way forward.
Section 124A IPC punishes words or actions that attempt to incite hatred, contempt and disaffection towards governments. It is a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence with life imprisonment as maximum punishment, with or without a fine. The law was originally drafted by Thomas Macaulay. It was introduced in the IPC in 1870 to deal with “increasing anti-British Wahabi activities.
Following issues make it clear that the sedition law should be abolished:
- The United Kingdom had abolished sedition laws in 2009. It is not justified to retain Section 124A in the IPC.
- It creates a false dichotomy between freedom of and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1) (a and the right to resistance. It is not even part of the “reasonable restrictions” on free speech under Article 19(2).
- Frequent use and low conviction: The data provided by National Crime Records Bureau indicates that sedition cases have risen from 47 in 2014 to 93 in 2019, a massive 163 percent jump. However, the conversion rate from cases to conviction is a mere 3 percent.
- Legal flaws: The terms “bring into hatred or contempt” or “attempt to excite disaffection” can be interpreted in many ways and this empowers the police and government to harass innocent citizens.
- Opposing democracy: A democracy requires citizens to actively participate in debates and express their constructive criticisms of government policies. But it is being compromised due to the sedition law.
Arguments in support of Sedition law:
- Section 124A of the IPC has its utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.
- It is argued that if contempt of court invites penal action, contempt of government should also attract punishment.
- In Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962), the SC upheld the law on the basis that this power was required by the state to protect itself and should be exercised in rare cases.
- In its 1968 report, the Law Commission had rejected the idea of repealing the section and suggested that it should be invoked when the intention behind any act is to disrupt public order or to overthrow the Government with violence and illegal means.
The need of the hour requires the judiciary to review this law. Even issuing strict guidelines to limit its indiscriminate use can definitely help India’s democratic stand as well as safeguarding freedom of expression.