Sedition law has no place in a modern democracy

Source: Indian Express 

Relevance: There should be a fine balance between fundamental rights and statutes.


The sedition law was born out of an authoritarian mindset and a zeal to ensure the fixation of order. It’s been done away within most of the world (including U.K and U.S) and should be removed from India as well owing to its persistent misuse.

  • Justice D Y Chandrachud commented that the law on sedition needs to be relooked, especially in the context of increasing incarcerations of media persons under this law.
  • The comment holds immense significance, as this is the first instance in recent times when a sitting judge of the Supreme Court has publicly “questioned” this questionable law.
  • However, it covers only a myopic view of misuse against media persons and ignores repeated instances of misuse against the common masses.
About Sedition Law:
  • In India, Sedition falls under section 124A of the IPC (Indian Penal Code).
  • It is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring contempt or hatred towards the government of India.
  • Sedition cases are punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, or the sedition law, is the illegitimate child of two fathers — one is a monarchy and the other a fixation with “order”. Both aim to quash dissent for maintaining the status quo and order in society.
  • Sedition was retained by the Supreme Court in the Kedar Nath Versus State of Bihar Case. The court said:
    • This species of offence against the State was not an invention of the British Government in India, but has been known in England for centuries.
    • Every State, whatever its form of Government, has to be armed with the power to punish those who, by their conduct – 
      • jeopardise the safety and stability of the State, or 
      • disseminate such feelings of disloyalty as to have the tendency to lead to the disruption of the State or to public disorder.

Misuse of Sedition against media persons:

  • In June, the Supreme Court quashed sedition charges against media person Vinod Dua. 
  • However, more than six months ago, a journalist from Kerala, Siddique Kappan, was charged with sedition (among other things) by the UP police. His bail application is still not accepted as he is not a high-profile journalist. 
Why should the Sedition law be abolished?
  • First, it is prone to misuse, as police officers and lower courts are more concerned with the law as it exists on the books. Further, the Kedar Nath judgment hasn’t been added to the Indian Penal Code.
    • A decade ago, Binayak Sen was convicted of sedition and imprisoned. His case clearly did not meet the requirement of the Supreme Court’s reading down in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar. 
    • Yet, neither the district nor the High Court thought it prudent to grant him bail and later on bail was granted by the Supreme Court.
  • Second,  democracies thrive on chaos, but an authoritarian mind seeks to control, and the overarching quest for an order is primarily anti-democratic
    • The fixation with order is, therefore, primarily an intolerance of difference of opposing points of view, of dissent.
  • Third, the UK has done away with sedition as has the US and most of the world
    • In 1962, India was a newly independent state and was paranoid about separatist tendencies. However, now it is armed with a spate of laws that can deal with the issues that the sedition law was supposed to deal with.

Way Ahead:

  • Sedition should have no place in democracies which thrive on criticism of an existing government. 
  • It ought to have no place in societies that recognise that states of existence are temporary and the truth is multi-dimensional.

And so, not just mediapersons, but writers, thinkers, artists, and the millions who are voiceless people must be protected from this regressive law.

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