The exercise of fundamental rights is the supreme objective of any functioning democracy. The people of the country are enlightened and affirmed to challenge any impediments to their fundamental rights. This has posed a major challenge for lawmakers to ensure the hindrance-free exercise of rights. Sedition in India has become a pressing issue in no time. This colonial law had been facing criticism since its enactment. The law was introduced by the British to suppress the voice of the national leaders. Why this law is still in existence, is the question of the time.
Introduction to Sedition in India
It was in 1860 when sedition was declared a punishable offence. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code described sedition as whosoever by his words, either spoken or written or by any visible representation attempts to excite disaffection or hatred against the government will be subject to punishment.
The statistics suggest an abnormal increase in cases of sedition in the last two to three years. Although the conviction rate has not been significant. About this fact, the government has been imposed with the allegation of misusing the same. Subsequently many critics, activists, journalists have been absolved from the charge of sedition.
In the case of Tara Singh Gopi Chand v. The State (1950), the Punjab High Court mentioned that section 124A stands contrary to the article 19(1)(a). The article is enshrined for the fundamental right of the freedom of free speech and expression. Following this case, the exemplary Kedar Nath Singh vs. the State of Bihar was observed in 1953. The court did try to limit the scope of misusing sedition law in the case.
There came an incredible turn when the sedition was considered a cognizable offence in 1973. The status of sedition has undergone a plethora of ups and downs. It would not be wrong to imply that the judiciary strongly feels that this law is not in its best form. Also, the government has been hesitant to get rid of this contentious law.
Complexities of sedition
As we have moved towards modernization the government has increased its level of accepting criticism. However, the law of sedition cannot be nullified without considering the purpose it serves. It checks for the individuals who might thrash the peace of the country by misguiding or propagandizing wrong sentiments. This law had been responsible for placing people behind bars who spoke against the government. If suppose sedition is abolished, do we have other laws to check for to maintain peace and order.
There are likely two possibilities of what form the further developments could be. Either the interpretation and scope of sedition will be limited or the sedition will be completely invalidated. The law needs to keep up with the expectations of modern society. Sedition in India is measured on the parameter of the tendency to incite hatred or disharmony and bringing public disorder. The test is uncertain. The enigmatic theory should be made more concrete.
Some countries like the United States of America, Germany have kept the concept of sedition in action. The reference to the laws has been minuscule to preserve the freedom of speech and expression. Countries like New Zealand and Indonesia ceased the existence of sedition from their laws. The government has quite a task in front of it. The reform has to be in accordance to the best interest of the people.