Gandhiji described sedition as the prince of Indian penal code. It was used freely against our freedom fighters in attempt to muzzle their anti-colonial writings, speeches and voices. No fundamental right in our constitution is absolute. Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted on the grounds specified in Article 19(2).
It is notable that during constituent assembly debates, our founding fathers deleted “sedition” as permissible ground of restriction under Article 19(2) on freedom of speech. However, it remains as a criminal offence under IPC section 124A and provides for inter alia sentence of life imprisonment and fine upon conviction.
In Kedarnath v. State of Bihar, the Supreme court opined that vigorous words in writing and very strong criticism of measures of government or acts of public officials would be outside the scope of Section 124A.
Recent invokements of Sedition law: Amnesty International and Divya Spandana (Pakistan is no hell)
Stringent fines who invoke Section 124A casually for any small case, including on lawyers.
Need for sedition law:
- Ours is still an evolving democracy with multitudes of ethnic, linguistic and communal problems faced regularly by us. In this sense, sedition is necessary to curtail speeches that can lead to public violence and disorder.
Case against sedition law:
- It effectively silences many authors and thinkers to present honest critiques about the government.
- It insulates government from healthy discussion, criticism and feedback from the citizens.
- It creates fear among people on presenting their view.
- It renders the constitution right of speech and expression powerless. (Article 19)
- It raises questions on moral duties of the State to protect citizens instead of silencing them.
- It is against India’s commitment to enhancing human rights (which includes freedom of speech and expression) in international forums such as the UN Human Rights Commission.