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Current Affairs

India’s sedition law

Date: 09 May 2022 Tags: Judiciary & Judgments

Issue

The Supreme Court has given the government additional time to file affidavit against a plea challenging sedition law.

 

Background

The pleas were filed by the Editors Guild of India and Major General (Retired) S.G. Vombatkere that challenged the law.

 

Details

The plea says that sedition law causes a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech and is an unreasonable restriction on idea of free expression, a fundamental right.

 

Sedition law: Historic origin

  • Sedition comes under Section 124A Indian Penal Code (IPC). It was drafted by British historian-politician Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1837.

  • The law was used by British colonial government to primarily suppress the writings and speeches of prominent Indian freedom fighters.

  • Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, and Jogendra Chandra Bose were some of the leaders who were charged under the law.

 

Applicability

 ‘Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India’ will be liable to be charged.

 

Punishment

  • It is a non-bailable law that is punishable with imprisonment from three years up to life, along with a fine. 

  • Individual charged under the law will be barred from a government job and their passport is seized by the government. 

 

  •  The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of section 124A of IPC in 1962 Kedar Nath Case.

  • The court has however observed that the law has been grossly misused as the conviction rate under the law is very low.

 

Way ahead

The law commission report asks for striking a balance between sedition and the right to freedom of speech, and providing safeguards against misuse of the law.