“Sedition law” can’t be used to criminalise critics: Court

What is the news?

Delhi Court has observed that the Sedition laws cannot be invoked to quiet the disquiet (criminalising the critics). The court also held that the government cannot act like restricting criminals while using sedition under IPC.

This observation was made by the court while granting bail to two persons arrested by Delhi police for allegedly committing sedition and spread rumours by posting fake videos on Facebook during ongoing farmers’ protests.

What is Sedition?

  • The concept of sedition was introduced under Section 124A under the Indian Penal Code in 1870. It was drafted by Thomas Macaulay.
  • The section was introduced initially to deal with increasing Wahabi activities between 1863 and 1870. These activities posed a challenge to the colonial government.
  • However, in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the law was mainly used against Indian political leaders seeking independence from British rule.

Punishment under Sedition:

  • Sedition is a cognisable (No need Court warrant to arrest the person), non-compoundable, and non-bailable offence. The sentence can be between three years to imprisonment for life for sedition.
  • A person charged under this law can’t apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport. Apart from that, they must present themselves in the court as and when required.

Sedition Trials during the Freedom Movement:

Some of the most famous sedition trials of the late 19th and early 20th century involved Indian nationalist leaders.

  • The first among them was the trial of Jogendra Chandra Bose in 1891. He was the editor of the newspaper, Bangobasi. He wrote an article criticizing the Age of Consent Bill for posing a threat to the religion and for its coercive relationship with Indians.
  • Further, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was prosecuted for his writings in Kesari in 1897.
  • The other well-known case was the sedition trial of Mahatma Gandhi in 1922. Gandhi had called Sedition “the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.

Judiciary on Sedition:

  1.  In 1951, the Punjab High Court had ruled Section 124A to be unconstitutional. A similar ruling was passed in 1959 by the Allahabad High Court, which also concluded that it struck at the very root of free speech.
  2. Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar,1962:
    • The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Section 124-A (sedition) on the basis that this power was required by the state to protect itself.
    • However, it said that every citizen has a right to say or write about the government by way of criticism or comment. A citizen can criticize the government to the extent, it does not incite people into violence.
  3. P.Alavi vs State of Kerala,1982:
    The Supreme Court held that sloganeering, criticising of Parliament or Judicial setup does not amount to sedition.
  4. Balwant Singh v State of Punjab,1995:
    • The Supreme Court acquitted persons from charges of sedition for shouting slogans such as “Khalistan Zindabad”.
    • The court held that mere raising of slogans by two individuals alone cannot be sid as sedition. Further, it is also not considered as an attempt aimed to excite hatred or disaffection against the government.

Read more about national security laws in India

Source: The Hindu

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