British government ,which ruled India for about 200 years , has introduced the Sedition law (Sec-124 A of IPC) fearing the threat posed by the Indian freedom fighters and the growing anti-british rule tendency among the Indians.It was in 1870 that the Sedition law was passed by the British government just few years after the historic 1857 revolt.
It says that the act of Sedition is to bring hatred or contempt towards the Government established by law in India.In this case, the punishment may be of imprisonment for life and fine, or imprisonment for 3 years and fine.As said above it was actually brought to suppress the freedom struggle prevalent then. Its most famous victims included Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi called it “the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
WHAT IS SEC-124A OF IPC :
The section deals with the offence of sedition, a term that covers speech or writing, or any form of visible representation, which brings the government into hatred or contempt, or excites disaffection towards the government, or attempts to do so. It is punishable with three years in prison or a life term. “Disaffection”, it says, includes disloyalty and feelings of enmity. However, it also says expressing disapproval of government measures or actions, with a view to getting them changed by lawful means, without promoting hatred or disaffection or contempt towards the government will not come under this section.
Sedition Law and Independence Movement :
1.British used the sedition law to quell the Indian freedom struggle and retain imperial power.
2.The first known use of Sedition law was against Jogendra Chandra Bose, editor of “Bangobasi”,who was charged in 1891 for his criticism of the “Age of Consent Bill” whereby he said that the bill was disastrous to religion and was being forcefully imposed on Indians. He later apologized for what he had written.
3.During freedom struggle, targets of this law included renowned nationalists like Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant.
4.Later Bal Gangadhar Tilak was also tried under sedition law, who criticised the killing by Chapekar brothers but also blamed the British government for bringing the situation in the country to a brink, thus instigating the revolutionaries. Tilak was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment to Mandalay jail.
Later Mahatma Gandhi was tried in 1922 for his articles published in the magazine Young India.
5.Mahatma Gandhi said that the section 124-A under which he was charged is perhaps the prince
among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. He further said that “Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by the law. If one has no affection for a person, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.”
CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY :
Two high courts had found it unconstitutional after Independence, as it violated the freedom of speech and expression. The Constitution was amended to include ‘public order’ as one of the ‘reasonable restrictions’ on which free speech could be abridged by law. Thereafter, the Supreme Court, in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962) upheld its validity. At the same time, it limited its application to acts that involve “intention or tendency to create disorder” or incitement to violence. Thus, even strongly worded remarks, as long as they do not excite disloyalty and enmity, or incite violence, are not an offence under this section.
Article 124-A of IPC v/s Article 19(1) of Constitution debate : In the Ram Nandan vs. State (1958), the Allahabad High Court held section 124-A to be
unconstitutional citing that the section restricts freedom of speech (Article 19) in disregard of whether the interest of public order or the security of the state is involved and is capable of striking at the very root of the Constitution which is free speech.The decision of the Allahabad High Court was overruled by Supreme Court in the Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar (1962). However, the Supreme Court said that this section should be construed as
to limit their application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence. If used arbitrarily, the sedition law would violate freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 19″.
WHY IN NEWS ?
The present internal aggression among the Indian citizens due to the central governments object of implementing the CAA(citizenship amendment act) and increasing sedition cases against the protestors in a very abstract way is increasing the concerns about the misuse of Sedition law by the government against the citizens.
It is a matter of concern that a large number of sedition cases have been filed against people for protesting against the CAA. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that 194 cases of sedition have been filed since the CAA was passed on December 11, 2019. More cases of sedition have been filed since December 11 than in the last three years put together, according to NCRB data. The data also show that while the number of sedition cases filed has been going up every year (numbers for sedition cases started being recorded from 2014) in the last four years, only four cases actually resulted in conviction. So, how useful is the sedition law?
One of the famous law persons in India like Nandita Rao said in The Hindu that ” Sedition is an offence which existed in our Indian Penal Code (IPC) before we got Independence because the colonial master wished to penalise anybody who was trying to overthrow the state. But the irony is that in independent India, of late, this provision is being used to bully and terrorise citizens. And in the Bidar case, where a parent and the principal of a school were charged with sedition for staging a play critical of the CAA, we saw that it was used — or rather misused — to bully and terrorise small children and a young woman. So, I think when the state begins to terrorise people with laws, then we are dangerously flirting with fascism”.
Thus , the Sedition law can be described as the relics of British autocratic rule in India which is being misused by the present Authoritarian Government .