- Well, under the Section 124A of the IPC, the offence of sedition is committed when any of the person by words or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to the excite disaffection towards the government established by the law.
- Indian Tamil folk singer Kovan was arrested in 2015 on charges including sedition for writing songs criticising a state official for not banning alcohol sales.
- Similarly, civil rights activists like Binayak Sen, student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, cartoonists like Asim Trivedi, writers like Arundhati Roy, actors and poets had faced the brunt of whimsical registration of sedition case.
- Issue: arbitrary arrests of people and registration of numerous cases of sedition.
- SC judgement dealing with section 124A of IPC: Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar
- The court examined whether the constitutionality of Section 124A could be protected as a reasonable restriction on the right to free speech, with particular reference to the security of the state and public order. Moreover, it upheld the constitutional validity of Section 124A in the IPC by holding that the purpose of the crime of sedition was to prevent the government established by the law from being subverted because “the continued existence of the Government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the State”
- Moreover, the Constitution Bench of our Supreme Court which ruled in the Kedar Nath case that any act that had the “effect of subverting our Government” by the violent means or create the public disorder will come within the definition of the seditions.
- The court ruled that disapproval of the measures of government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means is not sedition. Moreover, it held the “comments, however the strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of our Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause the public disorder by the acts of the violence” would not attract the penal offence.
- SC had time and again in various judgements held that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy",
- Recently, the Law Commission of India has said that dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of a robust public debate in a vibrant democracy.
- The Commission, the Centre’s topmost advisory body on laws, in a consultation paper on the sedition law (124A IPC) noted that the law should be invoked only in cases “where intention” behind the act is to “disrupt the public orders or to overthrow the Government with the violence and also the illegal means”.
- It also added that Right to criticise one‘s own history and the right to offend‘ are rights protected under free speech.
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- Every political dispensation has time and again invoked section 124A of the IPC to curb constructive criticism or voice of dissent, but ‘voice of dissent’ is the bedrock of a democracy and hence should not be muzzled.
- The need of the hour is the right application of section 124A as per the guidelines given by SC in Kedarnath case.