Misuse of Sedition law in India

Synopsis – Unwarranted arrest of MP in Andhra Pradesh is another example of the misuse of the Sedition law in India relating to exciting disaffection against the government.

  • Section 124-A [which deals with sedition law] has been misused in a number of cases in India. One of them is the unwarranted arrest of K. Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, an MP from Andhra Pradesh.
  • Raju was arrested for allegedly acting in a manner that harmed the state government’s reputation.
  • He has been charged under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups), and 505 (conducing public mischief).

What is the sedition act and the issues related to it?

Section 124A of the IPC, which deals with sedition states – Any offense committed with the intent to bring hatred or contempt or attempt to spread disaffection toward the government, shall be punished.

Punishment under sedition law- Sedition is a non-bailable offense. The punishment under the law varies from imprisonment up to three years to a life term and fine.

Issues with the act-
  • Firstly, Against fundamental right to speech – The law often goes against the fundamental right to free speech and expressions. Which are essential parts of democracy. The sedition law has a chilling effect on people who think and speak freely.
    • For example- Raju was accused of only speech-based offenses relating to his diatribe against his party leader and CM.
  • Secondly, Sedition law is a relic of colonial legacy – The law of sedition [British legacy] is an outdated and archaic rule that stands in the way of the Constitution’s provision of freedom of speech.
  • Thirdly, Low conviction rate- Most cases that are filed do not end in a conviction if Section 124A is applied.
  • Fourthly, The sedition law is overly wide and loosely defined- The terminology used under Section 124-A, such as disaffection, is unclear and open to multiple interpretations depending on the investigating officers.
How K. Raghu Ramakrishna Raju’s arrest was unjust?

According to the Supreme Court’s Arnesh Kumar judgment (2014), there is no need to arrest someone for a crime that carries a sentence of seven years or less.

  • Prison time for Sections 153A and Sections 505 is less than seven years.
  • And Sections 124A (sedition), which has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, also prescribes an alternative jail term of three years.

Way forward-

  • The definition of sedition should be narrowed down and properly defined.
  • Section 124A should not be misused as a tool to curb free speech and expression and it would be even more protective of free speech if the Centre abolished the provision.

Source- The Hindu

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