Friday, 4 February 2022

SEDITION LAW: A THREAT TO INDIA'S DEMOCRACY

 SEDITION LAW: A THREAT TO INDIA’S DEMOCRACY 

BY NUPUR GARG 

INTRODUCTION 

In India democracy means that all the people have the power to freely express their satisfaction and dissatisfaction for the laws created by the government. Few laws and rules which were solely made for the purpose to serve the British administration were still adopted by the sovereign government of India and till today even after more than seventy years of free India such colonial laws are being followed. One of the highly talked about law in today’s day and time is the relevance of the Sedition Law in independent India.

ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION 

Sedition as per Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) reads as, “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], 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.” This law was enacted in 1860, under the British Raj, to prevent any offences against the state.

Sedition laws were enacted during 17th century in England with a view that people can only have a positive impression for the government as their negative view van harm the government functioning. Later on in 1870 it was incorporated in the Indian Penal Code. It has been seen that there are number of cases been reported against the person who had done an offence under the said law. This number had increased from 2014 but in spite of this the cases never reached to court and it was believed that executives were using the unambiguity of law for their advantage. This can be the reason why today government is not ready to accept the opposition or criticism which is known to be one of the features of the democracy.

In simple terms sedition means the use of any word or phrase which is seditious in nature or a false statement which can harm the reputation of a person or any act done orally or through written form in order to satisfy some seditious goal. This act is punishable with fine as well as punishment under the common law.

After independence the section 124A of IPC first time came up in the case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras. In this case the apex court held that unless the freedom of speech and expression causes any harm to the security of the state any law imposing any kind of restriction on the same would be out of the scope of section 19(2) of the constitution.

DRAWBACK OF SEDITION LAW 

After the total analysis an observation by the National Crime Records Bureau it was told that after 2014 there have been a massive increase in the number of cases of sedition registered. However, despite the large number of cases registered the conversion of cases to conviction is very low this shows that cases have not reached to court which further indicates that the concerned authorities i.e., police and state authorities are using the sedition law inappropriately according to their convenience which results in fear among the citizen of nation also silencing any form of criticism against the government regime. 

Now we see that how sedition is a threat to Indian democracy. As we know that in a democratic country like India, we have the right of freedom of speech and expression as this right is important for healthy democracy. But if we see practically this is not an absolute right as freedom to speech under article 19(1) is always followed by article 19(2) which tells about the reasonable restrictions on the right to speech. Similarly, the law of sedition has a heavy impact on the free speech. AS this law must be used in rare cases but the government has exploited it in order to manipulate the public opinions. The restrictions imposed by sedition is very unreasonable as it prevents citizens to express their healthy criticism towards government decisions and policies. The government has utilized the sedition statute to silence protesting voices in order to defend its own interests.

CONCLUSION 

To conclude, sedition laws and their growing misuse by governments of all stripes  are a matter of serious concern. Personal liberty and the right to free speech are hallmarks of liberal democracy and sedition laws and their gross misuse attack the very foundation of these liberties enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The need of the hour requires the judiciary to review this draconian law. Even if abolishing this law may not be feasible, toning it down and issuing strict guidelines to limit its indiscriminate use can definitely help India’s democratic standing apart from safeguarding freedom of expression in the country.




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