Why do you need the ‘colonial law’ of sedition, CJI asks the govt.

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has questioned the Central government whether the provision of Sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was still needed after 75 years of independence.

What was the case?
  • A petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the offense of sedition under Section 124A of Indian Penal Code(IPC).
  • The petitioner stated that Section 124A should be struck down as it was in violation of Article 14 (equality before law), 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression), and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty).
What has the Apex Court said?
  • Firstly, the Supreme Court asked the Centre on why a colonial law such as sedition which was used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak remained in the law book 75 years after Independence.
  • Secondly, the court said that the sedition law was prone to misuse by the government. The use of sedition is like giving a saw to the carpenter to cut a piece of wood, and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself.
  • Thirdly, the court wondered why the government which had repealed a number of pre-colonial laws was not looking into the sedition law.
  • Fourthly, the court cited the example of Section 66A of the IT Act, under which thousands of cases were being registered despite the fact that the provision was struck down. Hence, there is rampant misuse of provisions without any accountability.
  • Lastly, the court said that if we see the conviction rate under Section 124A, it is very low.
    • According to the data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), cases of sedition have shown a rise in 2019, but only 3% of the sedition cases resulted in convictions.
Significance of these statements:
  • These statements from the Supreme Court on Section 124A are important in the backdrop of rising public denouncement of Central and State law enforcement agencies using the sedition law to silence dissent, muzzle free expression and deny bail to jailed activists, journalists, students and civil society members.
  • Moreover, the Supreme Court’s remarks have also opened the door for debate and introspection on the court’s own verdict in 1962, in the Kedar Nath case, which upheld Section 124A.
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