Why the sedition law must go 

News: Most recently, the Supreme Court directed the Union government and the states to refrain from using the law of sedition. In addition, the Supreme Court has also kept all previous cases under Section 124A of the IPC in abeyance till the matter is reconsidered in a comprehensive way.  

Argument against the Sedition law 

The colonial government used the law of sedition liberally to curb free speech. However, the section on sedition was retained after independence and has been used on the same pattern so far. 

In the Constituent Assembly, B R Ambedkar passionately argued that liberty, equality and fraternity should become the principles of our democratic lives.  

The Section 124Aof the IPC, has acted as a constraint on the exercise of the freedom of speech and expression which is enshrined as a guaranteed fundamental right in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. In fact, dissent, criticism and differences of opinion are vital for the functioning of any democracy. But the governments have used sedition to suppress and quell political dissent. 

The Section 124A of the IPC has often been invoked with the aim to create an atmosphere of fear and servility against the dissenters. For example, it is used against politicians, political activists, human rights activists, civil rights workers and advocacy groups who dared question the government’s stand.  

The NRCB data exposes the untenability of Section 124A or UAPA. Most cases are disposed of at the police level by withdrawing the case or submitting a chargesheet in the court. In courts, there is an abysmally low rate of conviction and the cases are disposed of without conviction. It means the sedition charges are slapped in flimsy nature or are used to intimidate or harass those who question the government’s fiat.  

The law endangers our fundamental constitutional values. For example, the pendency rate in court remained 95%. This indicates harassment and violation of the right to life and liberty for a great number of people who are suffering because of the diabolical prison conditions in India.  

The Law Commission of India in its “consultation paper on sedition” found many issues that need addressing around the working of Section 124A. 

Way Forward 

A Private Member’s Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2011 to abolish Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. 

In order to improve the democratic foundations of our country, there must not be any space for sedition. The progressive citizens of India have been constantly asking for the repealing of the sedition law. 

Source: The post is based on an article “Why sedition law must go?” published in the Indian Express on 13th May 2022. 

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