- Sedition law has been a very debatable topic in India and has attracted the attention of many.
- A case has been brought before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the provision yet again.
- The authorities have been misusing the provision to impose their supremacy on the citizens, which shows the high number of cases being registered.
- The article discusses few instances of sedition law being slapped on the citizens.
Sedition law has been in the existence since decades. The law was used as a strong weapon to supress the voices of the Indian freedom fighters in the colonial era and now the same provision is being used against the public. The country has seen registration 326 cases of sedition in 2014–2019, out of which charge sheets were filed in 141 cases and only 6 convictions have been made.
The journalists have also been charged for sedition for their criticism against the decisions of the government, which has created a lot of outrage in the various journalist groups who have approached Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the sedition law. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) have issued a joint statement calling on Indian authorities to take immediate measures to prevent the use of sedition laws and other legal punishments to threaten and suppress independent journalists.
The Editors Guild of India and a former Major General had challenged the constitutional validity of the colonial era provision. The Chief Justice of India has agreed to examine the pleas and observed that the provision is being enormously misused, which was the major concern. The bench has also questioned the Attorney General as to why it was necessary to keep the same colonial era law which was used to supress the voices of freedom movement like Mahatma Gandhi.
CAA and NRC protest
Since CAA and NRC have been implemented, a huge number of citizens in the country came down to the roads to protest against the legislation, stating it to be arbitrary on the part of the government. Sharjeel Imam and a lot of others from the JNU and several universities came on the road to protest against the legislation and to voice their opinion on the subject, after which some of them were arrested. Sharjeel Imam filed an application for bail and the counsel for him stated that he was involved in an intellectual discussion with fellow scholars and there was no intention of trying to inside any sort of hatred or violence against the decision. He was charged under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the UAPA for indulging in unlawful activities.
Bidar School Incident
A school in the North Karnataka district bordering Telangana had a play on the implementation of CAA as part of a school assignment. The students and teachers were given two days and they made their own dialogues to enact. The parents of one of the student made a live video of the play which was used to file a complaint against the teacher and the headmistress. They were asked to appear in the police station for questioning and had been in prison. The complainant stated that he was disturbed with the way students were talking about the Prime Minister. The school gives scholarship to the students from backward communities and has been able gain a name for itself. There has been a huge uproar on the matter and the lawyers of the Bar Association had even proposed a motion to not take up the case for the two women, which failed.
A case of sedition had been filed against the political activist Shehla Rashid for her tweets against the alleged torture done by the Indian Army in disputed Kashmir. She alleged that the Indian Army tortured the Kashmiri men by placing a microphone next to them so that the entire area can hear them screaming. Even though the Indian Army refuted the allegations, the allegations had been proved by a report on army abuse, which was published in the media. She was charged for spreading fake information against the government and the Army. She had to fight the case and was left in considerable financial implications, which had a very chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression.
Aisha Sulatana, a filmmaker of the Malayalam film industry, had given her opinion on the use of biological weapons against the people of Lakshadweep Island by the Centre in a debate telecast by a news channel, following which a case was registered against her under Section 124 A and 153 B of the IPC, which stated that she was trying to create disharmony among different communities of people. She filed for an anticipatory bail from the Court which was granted to her. She had clarified her stand with an apology for making her statement. She stated that she did not have any intention to promote separatism and communalism in the minds of school children by the statement.
Although many elected representatives privately believe that the law should be repealed, there has been no larger consensus in Parliament since it serves the interests of those in power. In the World Press Freedom Index 2020, India is ranked 142 out of 180 countries. The US-based NGO Freedom House downgraded India from free to partially free in its annual Freedom in the World report released on March 3.
If this continues to exist and the voices of the citizens are curbed in a democracy, then the day is not far when India would not even stand at partially free. When we have so many provisions to stop hatred amongst the people against the government, like the provisions for treason, sedition is not important. Even if it is kept, it needs to be remodelled so as to make it at par with the current world and not the British era.