Centre’s plan to relook at sedition law is welcome but Supreme Court must take the review process to its logical conclusion 

News: The government has expressed its views to shed colonial baggage after 75 years since independence, and has told the Supreme Court that it would re-examine the provision.  

About Sedition law 

The provision (Section 124A) of the Indian Penal Code was incorporated in its current form in the penal code (IPC) in 1898, nearly four decades after the IPC was introduced.

It defines the offence of “sedition” as exciting “disaffection” against the government established by law, or bringing it into “hatred or contempt” and penalises such an action.

The punishment prescribed ranges from life imprisonment with an added fine or an additional jail term of three years.  

Constitutionality of Section 124A of the IPC 

First, the Punjab High court and the Allahabad high court struck down the sedition law as an exception to free speech in the 1950s, 

Second, the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962) upheld its constitutionality. The SC said not all speech with “disaffection”, “hatred,” or “contempt” against the state are seditious. The speech that is likely to incite “public disorder” would qualify as sedition.  

Argument against 

The sedition law became obsolete in the UK in the 1960s and was finally repealed in 2009. In fact, Singapore, which like India inherited colonial English law, has also repealed the sedition law. 

In fact, the Law Commission and the Supreme Court in their successive reports have reported the rampant misuse of the law. For example, the provision has been invoked against comedians, journalists and ordinary citizens who expressed their dissatisfaction with the government.  

Way Forward 

The Supreme Court has decided to revisit the constitutional validity of the sedition law which is a colonial provision. 

The Home Ministry asked the SC to defer the hearing for now till a “competent forum”, presumably Parliament, deliberates on the issue of sedition law. 

The authority to identify and distinguish genuine expression of speech from seditious speech should not be left to the police

Source: The post is based on an article “Centre’s plan to relook at sedition law is welcome but Supreme Court must take the review process to its logical conclusion” published in the Indian Express on 10th May 2022. 

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