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Is Sedition an Obstacle For Freedom of Speech to Exist

Supreme Court in one month has questioned the Sedition law three times. This time Supreme Cort stated the Sedition Law to be “colonial” and asked the government to do we still need this after 75 years of freedom. Supreme Court expressed concern over the misuse of this law and the power that executive agencies get through this law and there is no accountability of executive agencies. 

After hearing the petition filed by (Retired) Major Gen. SG Vombatkere who has challenged the Sedition law that is Section 124A of the IPC. The Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana turned to Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and said that Sedition Law is a colonial rule. 

Sedition Law was brought by Britishers to control and tackle the Freedom Movement of India. This law is the same which was used to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak, etc. Court asked in this independent era if there was any need for Sedition Law.

The government’s top lawyer, K.K. Venugopala said that the law must be retained with certain guidelines. The three judges bench compared the Sedition Law to “a saw” that is used to cut the whole forest rather than just one log of wood.

The court asked the centre to respond to the retired army officer petition that this law causes “chilling effects” and it is a threat and restriction to free speech. Court also said that it will examine the validity of this law.

The court said that it will hear all the petitions filed for the scarping of Sedition Law together. There are several petitions filed for the scrap down of Sedition Law.

The bench stated that they are not blaming the centre or state and stated the example of the Information Technology IT Act, 66 A which is continue to be used, though it has been scraped down. This continuous use of the IT Act has hampered many unfortunate people. This act is still being used and it troubles the unfortunate people and there is no accountability for the same.

The petition retired army officer argues that the Sedition Law is completely unconstitutional and should be struck down.

What is Sedition Law?

124 A- 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 the law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

In simple words, sedition is something that leads to insurrection against the state.

Though there are debates around how draconian Sedition law is but there are certain arguments that are in favour of sedition law. One of the most important arguments is that it is of utilization in combating terrorists and Maoists. It is said that this law is important for the stability of the State as it protects the government from any illegal means to overthrow the government.

The constitutionality of this law was challenged in the case “Kedar Nath vs the State of Bihar” in 1926 where the court upheld this law. The court gave the reason that there should be some law that protects the State. But, the court also stated that a person can only be punished if his action led to incitement of violence.

The court held that a citizen has the right to write or say whatever he likes about the government, this will not be considered the case of Sedition until and unless this leads to violence. The court stated that criticism or comment on government is not Sedition if it doesn’t incite violence.

Two women journalists have moved to Supreme Court challenging the Sedition Law. The two journalists were Patricia Mukhim she is the editor of Shillong Times and Anuradha Bhasin, she is the owner of the Kashmir Times said that section 124A of the IPC will continue to haunt and hinder the freedom of speech.

In June Supreme Court made a statement that “Journalists are entitled to protection against Sedition”. This case was related to senior Journalist Vinod Dua and his remark on the central government. The court upheld the right of every journalist to criticize the government. This bench was led by Justice U.U. Lalit.

Now it’s high time a real debate is necessary on Sedition Law as some changes are needed in the law so that no person receives a penalty for freedom of speech.

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Tags: Freedom of Speech Sedition Law Supreme Court sedition Journalists Constitution


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