Context: Sessions court in Delhi has rejected the evidence presented by the Delhi Police against climate change activist Disha Ravi, as “scanty and sketchy”.
- Judge has granted bail to the 22-year-old arrested for nothing more than editing a document shared among a network of activists raising global support for the farmers’ protests against three central laws.
- In particular, the judge has applied the established test for a charge of sedition under Section 124A of the IPC to pass muster: that the act involved must constitute a threat to public order and incitement to violence.
- He was clear that there was no causal link between the violence and Ms. Ravi.
- Hence, it is significant that the judge not only saw Ms. Ravi’s activism as related to her freedom of speech and expression, but went on to say that an attempt to reach a global audience is part of that freedom.
There is no place in a modern democracy for a colonial-era legal provision such as sedition. Too broadly defined, prone to misuse, and functioning as a handy tool to repress activism, the section deserves to be scrapped.
Section 124A of the IPC defines sedition. It makes some kinds of speech or expression a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The Sedition law can be applied if the speeches or expressions
- bring or attempt to bring into hatred or contempt, or
- excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India.
- It is classified as “cognisable” — the investigation process (including the powers to arrest) can be triggered merely by filing an FIR, without a judicial authority having to take cognisance —
- It is also qualified as “non-bailable” — the accused cannot get bail as a matter of right, but is subject to the discretion of the sessions judge.