Sedition by Rusha Mukherjee

Power tends to corrupt but absolute power corrupts absolutely “ an old proverb with contemporary implications.The Supreme Court shall examine the validity of Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code in lieu of a petition filed by retired major General S.G. Vombatkare who contented that the 60 year old judgment of KedarNath needed review and should be examined by the apex court. A constitutional bench has been set up which is headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana to decide the case.The sedition law has been facing repeated challenges in the last few years .The present petition has prayed for the quashing of all the complaints lodged under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code and to stop further police investigation. Other petitions that had been challenging the said provision filed by journalist Kishore Chandra and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla from Manipur and Chandigarh respectively is being heard by a constitutional bench led by justice Lalith.According to a survey conducted by the National Crime Records Bureau the number of sedition cases rose by 60% from 2016 to 2019. However the data revealed that the conviction rate was only 3.3%.A 28% increase has been noted in the registered sedition cases per year from 2014 to 2020 as compared to the statistics between 2010 and 2014 . Law is dynamic and the question remains whether a British era law is applicable in the century of rapid digitalization.
History of sedition
The offence of sedition was introduced for the first time in Section 113 of Lord Macaulay’s Draft Penal code 1837 but was later omitted from the Penal Code.The offence of sedition was again reintroduced in the Indian criminal law in 1870 after 10 years of the codification of the Indian Penal Code.The initial section of sedition drafted by Macaulay was not as broad as it was before 1837. Scholars opined that the fear of Wahabi uprising made the britishers formulate the section 124 A of the IPC.
Issue raised in the present cases of sedition
The Supreme Court has expressed its concern regarding the widespread misuse of the sedition law. It has wondered about the credibility of allowing a law that was used by the britishers to silence freedom movement led by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Gokhale.The Chief Justice has issued notice to the centre stating it’s concern over the misuse of the provision. This cognizable, non-bailable offence makes any speech or expression that promotes hatred or contempt or attempts to promote the disaffection towards the government established by law in India an offence punishable with even life imprisonment.When the Attorney General KK Venogal was asked the necessity of such a law by Justice Rishikesh Roy and Justice Boppana he defended the provision by saying that it should be allowed to remain in the statute book while the court can issue guidelines to restrict its use . On the contrary the former army officer held that Sedition law causes ‘a chilling effect on speech’ and is. arbitrary and unreasonable restriction on the right to free speech . The court had sent a strong message to the government and informed that the Supreme Court has been prime facie convinced that the sedition law is being misused at a rapid rate and MP trampling the fundamental rights of speech and liberty of the citizens.

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