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Sedition Law used to suppress dissent

In a democracy, freedom of speech and expression is important. The cornerstone of a democratic society is an undisturbed word creation in an open forum. This right is imperative to prevent the suppression of the state and to audit the State’s forces. In order to deter violence, any right comes with certain limitations. Thus, the image was taken of Article 19(2). Sedition is one of the limitations alluded to in Article 19(2). Sedition is discussed in Section 124A of the IPC. It is a non-rentable and punishable felony, along with the paying of a tax, and a minimum jail sentence of up to three years.

Section 124A was named by Mahatma Gandhi as “the Prince of the IPC and planned to curtail independence for civilians” at a time when India was under British control. This indicates that in the actual case, Section 124A of the IPC is archaic. It was used against political figures who wanted independence from British control at the time. The same law extends today to activists and opponents of political freedom. The vocabulary is rather ambiguous and broad and thus subject to different interpretations.

The presumption of legality must be fulfilled as a crucial condition of a fair trial. Dark laws sabotage the rule of law because, in view of the prejudicial tactics of the government and the individual interests of judges, they leave a gate open for personal prosecution and interpretation. The provision is very broad, using terms such as ‘taking into hate or contempt,’ or excites, or attempt, to excite or incite disaffection. In the latest developments, the country has shown that critics, human rights violators and whistle-blowers are being oppressed merely for possessing negative actions or policies of the government.  This poses a significant concern, whether sedition is a government tactic used to silence opposition under the pretext of safeguarding national security and integrity? The administration quite comfortably calls dissidents “anti-nationalist.” But the government has to recognised that there’s a gap between “anti-national” to “anti-government.” For the smooth running of a democracy, dissidence is necessary. Dissidents who contributed to the growth of culture and democracy must commend the bravery of those who are opposed to the prevailing social norms through their dissenting views in the case of FA Picture International c. CBFC.

Recent cases

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Under section 124A of the IPC, a 19-year old Bengaluru student was charged with raising “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans on charges of sedition. How does this motto in some way bring hate, disapproval, or discouragement to the government? This obviously violates freedom of speech and can pose significant threats to an individual’s freedom. India was not at that stage at war with Pakistan nor was India considered an enemy country to be Pakistan. Each person has the right to make his / her opinions known.

It was held that an act would incite violence for the Kedar Nath Singh v. The State of Bihar to be regarded as sedition. The court ruled that, even though the authority government could use a harsh vocabulary, it would not be penalized if it did not cause public disorder. Obviously, these rules are violated and sedition legislation is used to muddle disputes. The NCRB’s 2016 study on Crime in India reveals that there was just 1 conviction and two acquittals out of the 34 sedition cases registered that year, while 31 are still pending. This illustrates how the government uses the legislation to further its own interests.

In January an accused critic of Prime Minister Modi was brought against the teacher and mother of a pupil. The school management arranged a game to raise awareness of the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Karnataka district of Bidar. The police claimed that the CAA was blamed for this act and therefore expeditiously. Despite repeated notices by the Supreme Court about the abuse of the statute on sedition, no change was made. It is still loosely used in the interest of the nation. The court claimed it was not sedative or ‘national’ in any way. Again, the Court held that section 124A ingredients, i.e. the source of public trouble, were missing. The government cannot be viewed merely as sedition by employing harsh words and critique. The Haryana government issued negative remarks from a Facebook user for seditions in October 2016.

Another man was arrested on Facebook because he wrote “I support Pakistan” and a Pakistan flag. These positions, however, in no way instigate hate or disaffection to the Indian administration. The aim of section 124A is for those who disrespect the government to be prosecuted. In the case of Bilal Ahmed vs. the State of Andhra Pradesh, the inference was that a person cannot be reserved under Section 124 A for having opposed the prime minister or his acts. These demonstrations have usually been made to appease a certain party that is also considered ‘anti-national.’ It would only be sedition if the remarks are addressed to the central government or government. It is important to recognise that the citizens concerned with the government’s apparatus vary from “legal government.” Section 124A Explanation 2 states that comments about government policy and authoritative action do not constitute insurrection.

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International Stance

In Article 19 of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, there must be a corresponding reason for the particular law if legislation imposes limits on the right of freedom of speech and expression. Obviously, in the Indian sense, sedition charges are being registered without any reasonable reason against activists and journalists to vilify dissidents. Countries such as New Zealand, the UK, and the US. In abolishing the sedition rule, the New Zealand Commission declared that having differences cannot be a criminal offence merely because they contradict the authorities of the state. In 2019, the UK repealed the sedition crime under Section 73 of the coroners and the rule on justice. The UN Committee on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights have defined a three-part criterion to qualify as legitimate restrictions for any infringement on freedom of expression.

  • Law shall be granted
  • To secure the genuine interest of the public and
  • You need to protect your interest

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that a prohibition may only be imposed on people’s rights, public order and morality if it threatens or breaks them. But the new laws on sedition in India do not contain any diplomatic guidance.

Conclusion

Justice Menon compactly explained the provision of a decent way of dealing with the section in the case of Aravindan v. Kerala province. He thought, ‘. A government that is quiet while peace remains free is under assault, wherever its duties are actually deserted. In any scenario, it is necessary to note that the people who possess them could not be stifled. If strongly applied, it would be possible that political activism which scrutinised or put forward government unorthodox thinking would cause undesired intervention. In that case, this would result in such a political promotion being stifled.

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Thinking in this manner could literally turn mainstream political beliefs from real social questions to which attention can be paid. The closing off of opportunities for the exchanging of viewpoints is likely to intensify hostility, trigger underground resistance and discourage problems being dealt with by argument rather than by coercion. Many that voice opposition are regularly promoted through concerns, grievances or circumstances that must be understood and faced by the general population. Moreover, in a nation such as India, where the difference between the wealthy and the poor is too wide and where an immense population lives below the poverty line. Although it might not be a way to abolish the ban on sedition, the present law surely should be checked. This sedition statute must be checked by the government and law enforcement authorities and recommendations that take diplomatic commitments and precedents into account. India should also aim to limit legislation to have a limited influence on freedom of speech and freedom of expression and international law.


Cite this article (The Bluebook 20th ed.)-

Kosha Doshi, Sedition Law used to suppress dissent, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (November 27, 2020), https://exgratialawjournal.in/blawg/constitutional-law/sedition-law-used-to-suppress-dissent-by-kosha-doshi/.

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Author

Kosha Doshi
Student - Symbiosis Law School, Pune