Time to repeal law on sedition (The
Mains Paper 2 : Polity
Prelims level : Sedition Law
Mains level : Sedition Law importance and significance
- The propensity of elected governments to trample individual freedoms has
been normalised to an absurd extent. In the current climate of high-pitched
nationalism, glaring violations of basic rights are being dismissed as
- Yet another case in point is the arrest and prolonged detention of
Imphal-based journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem under the draconian sedition
law and National Security Act (NSA) for criticising the Manipur Chief
Minister N Biren Singh as a “puppet” of Hindutva and using allegedly
“obscene” language against the CM and the Prime Minister.
- The journalist was booked under Section 124A of the IPC, pertaining to
sedition, and subsequently under the NSA.
- He was sacked from the local television channel that he worked for and
spent months in prison where he fell seriously ill. The Manipur High Court
has ordered his release.
- Such excesses have become commonplace.
- To take only a recent instance, former JNU student union president
Kanhaiya Kumar, the candidate for the Communist Party of India (CPI) in
Bihar’s Begusarai, is facing charges of sedition for being part of the
students’ assembly that chanted allegedly seditious slogans.
- The law on sedition has an egregious history.
- It goes back to the amendment in the Indian Penal Code during the
British era to broaden the ambit of Section 124A taking into account the
iconic trial of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Defending the amendment,
member-in-charge of the Bill (Mr Chalmers) said: “Language may be tolerated
in England which it is unsafe to tolerate in India because in India it is
apt to be transformed into action instead of passing off as harmless gas.”
- Since then sedition has been outlawed in the UK, but is commonly used
- It is being staunchly defended by the ruling party which has termed the
Congress’s manifesto promise of repealing Section 124A as an effort to
endanger national security.
- What passed off as “gas” in the more developed part of the world over a
century back continues to be seditious and dangerous in today’s India.
- In the Constitution and in the Constituent Assembly debates, a majority
of the members had resisted the inclusion of the term “sedition” in the
exceptions in Article 19(2) to the freedom of speech and expression,
guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
- While the Supreme Court has, in Kedar Nath Singh case of 1962, upheld
the Constitutional validity of 124A, it has severely restricted its
- However, since this law is open to misuse, it should have no place in
the rulebook. Apart from sedition, defamation should be treated as a civil
rather than criminal offence.
- The State should be made to compensate for wrong convictions. In the
Malleshwaram bomb blast case of April 2013, Bengaluru police released three
accused after failing to prove charges.
- The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission had sought compensation from
the State for wrongful incarceration, setting a precedent for State
Q.1) Identified as a classical dance today in India, and earlier known as
Odhra Magadha, it was a temple dance performed by the Devadasis. It is
Q.1) Treating any random act of indiscretion as seditious has no place in a
democracy. Critically examine the statement.
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