No further delay – on sedition law

Source: This post is created based on the article “No further delay”, published in Business Standard on 3rd May 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2 – Governance – Criminal Justice System

Context: The article analyses the progress on the Supreme Court’s order that ordered the government to stop registering cases under Section 124A of IPC.

India’s Supreme Court (SC) ordered the government, last year, to suspend all sedition trials and stop registering cases under Section 124A of the IPC until the provision was reviewed.

Consequently, those detained under this law were permitted to apply for bail. However, the government recently informed the SC that stakeholder consultation is not yet complete. It resulted in the postponement of the case that challenges the constitutionality of Section 124A.

This delay leaves the contentious law in a state of uncertainty.

What are the issues with government’s delay in fulfilling the SC’s order?

Shows unwillingness: The government’s extended consultation period demonstrates its previous unwillingness to address the issue.

Against democratic ethos: Section 124A, implemented by colonial rulers, is inconsistent with India’s democratic constitution and dedication to free speech.

Ambiguity of the law: Supreme Court decision in Kedar Nath versus State of Bihar, contributed to making this law more ambiguous. The ruling maintained the legality of Section 124A but made its application conditional. It allowed the state to interpret the law widely to arrest dissidents.

From 2015 to 2020, 356 cases were filed under the sedition law, with only 12 convictions. The petitioners have called for a review by a seven-judge Bench. The Supreme Court should expedite its decision, as Section 124A provides state actors with a tool to suppress dissenting voices.

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