Q) “The time is long past when the mere criticism of governments was sufficient to constitute sedition and the right to utter honest and reasonable criticism is a source of strength to a community rather than a weakness.” In this context, deliberate upon the need to scrap Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
Why this Question?
Issue of current importance.
Key demand of the Question
Deliberate upon the need to review Section 124A of the IPC i.e., the sedition law in India.
Deliberate – Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter- arguments as well. Conclude by stating clearly how far you agree with the original proposition.
Start with a brief on Section 124A of IPC.
In the first part, discuss why there has been a demand to scrap the law.
In the next part, discuss for and against the sedition law in the country.
Conclude that the law of sedition which penalizes people for criticizing the government should be declared unconstitutional.
According to the Section 124A of IPC, Sedition is an act that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise. Colonial administrators used sedition to lock up people who criticised the British policies. Recently, a report by Freedom House — Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy Under Siege — downgraded India’s status from a free country to a partly free country. One of the reasons for the fall is the rise in sedition cases against dissenters.
Should the law be scrapped?
- Against democratic norms: It stifles the democratic and fundamental right of people to criticize the government.
- Inadequate capacity of State Machinery: The police might not have the “requisite” training to understand the consequences of imposing such a “stringent” provision.
- Possibility of Misuse: It has been used arbitrarily to curb dissent. In many cases the main targets have been writers, journalists, activists who question government policy and projects, and political dissenters.
- The draconian nature of this law as the crime is non-bailable, non-cognisable and punishment can extend for life—it has a strong deterrent effect on dissent even if it is not used.
- Used to gag press: The press should be protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.
Arguments in favour of Section 124A
- Not really a draconian law: Now after the Supreme Court directions, its jurisdiction has been narrowed down. It can be applied only on grounds laid down by the court.
- Application is a part of reasonable restrictions: It is provided under the Article 19 (2).
- Does not really curb free speech: One can use any kind of strong language in criticism of the government without inviting sedition. However, such dissent should not be turned into some kind of persuasion to break the country.
- Threats to unity and integrity of nation due to presence of anti- national elements and divisive forces such as naxals, separatists who are receiving support from inside and outside the country.
- Mere misuse cannot be a ground of repeal, rather provisions should be made where such misuse is eliminated.
Sedition is important to protect the national interest. On the other hand, misuse of this provision will hamper the Fundamental Rights of individuals. People have the right to criticize the government, which is part and parcel of democracy. Hence, the law of sedition which penalizes people for criticizing the government should be declared unconstitutional.