Sedition an act or conduct by speech or in writing to rebel or incite discontent or displeasure against the monarch or government, the law which was used by the British to suppress the voice or silence the freedom fighters, is in the present era used to counter dissent and criticism against the government. This paper provides a unique outlook on how the sedition law is taken or understood by the very own Law Fraternity which looks into it in their daily life in the form of cases coming before them. The law fraternity is academicians, advocates and judges. This paper initially introduces the sedition law, then it looks into the opinion of the law fraternity on sedition in the form of a questionnaire method. The researcher then supplements this study by putting forth some discussion and then concluding it.
“The use of sedition is like giving a saw to the carpenter to cut a piece of wood and he used it to cut the entire forest itself”-CJI N V Ramana
The liberty of people criticising or speaking about how the ruler or government is governing them is the basic right to which every person would like to be entitled to, especially in a civilised and democratic society. The freedom of speech and expression can be seen for the first time in the French Revolution. Thomas Paine (1736-1809), the one of the radical liberal of the modern age- was convicted for the crime of libel and sedition in England, 1792. On being convicted he said, “if, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy….let the name of lebeller be engraved on my tomb”. The sedition of today becomes the revolution of tomorrow. Lord Macaulay drafted the sedition in the 1st law commission, 1834. The sedition was not there in the enacted Indian Penal Code, 1860 only to be inserted in 1870 by the then Law member of Viceroy Council- Sir James Fitzjames Stephan. The sedition law was introduced by the British Raj in India to counter the anti-colonial movement and Wahabi Movement which was challenging it. The post-independence period widen the scope of its definition with an amendment in 1955. The recent increase in sedition cases in India is something to worry about. The sedition case against the Pathalgadi Movement in which 10000 Adivasis 2% of the Khunti District population booked is one example of the government putting fear in the mind of people. The fear of incarceration makes people away from the protest. The protestors risked being labelled as “traitors” by the society at large, especially in the print media, broadcast media and social media. The risk of attacks on the accused person is high as the crime is poles apart to the patriotism of the common man and the hypernationalism propaganda by the government. The voice of dissent is important in any civilised and democratic government. Sedition is the colonial hangover which unites India in using against its citizen to stop the voice of dissent. Sedition is prone to be used on activists, academicians, journalists, students and civil society members. The incarceration technique was used to bring down the movement, morale and voice of dissent. The low conviction rate depicts the police and government incarcerating people in baseless and fake cases. The lesson from the history has not been taken by the Indian Judiciary. The adjudication of sedition cases has been seen as not following the Supreme Court precedent seriously, like in the case of the Vaiko case despite no direct incitement taking place given a guilty verdict by the Special Court. Many countries have dumped sedition to protect the voice of their people like the United States of America (USA) 1921, Australia (Oz) 2010, South Korea (SK) in 1988, others including United Kingdom (UK) 2009-the pioneer of sedition. Sedition is a law which should be dead in today’s civilised and democratic society but preserved by the government like mummies only to use it against the dissenting voice coming towards it. Sedition is the mummies of the government which disallow the freedom of speech and expression to its capacity.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The sedition law was introduced to crush the rising voices of freedom fighters and to quash their efforts for independence. But in the present times, this law on sedition is majorly used to curb the dissenting opinions on the existing government. The researcher in the paper points out how the sedition, in recent times, is proving to be an instrument against dissent.
The researcher used the bluebook 19th edition to cite the source used in the paper.
The questions whose answers the researcher seeks in this paper are:
- Whether the sedition law is necessary?
- Whether the dissent is taken in good spirit?
- Whether the sedition is relevant in present times?
- Whether the sedition is used arbitrary on dissenting people?
- To make the common masses understand the law of sedition by studying this research.
- To make the common masses understand the prevalent use of dracorian and colonial law sedition.
- To make the common masses understand the repealing or amendment required in the sedition law
- To make the common masses understand the opinion of the legal fraternity on law of sedition.
- To make the common masses aware by participating in this research and studying it.
The paper has been in three parts. The first part in which the brief history is given about the sedition is seen. The second part looks into the opinions of the legal fraternity on sedition. The opinion of the legal fraternity is taken by questionnaire method of research on sedition. The third part of the paper shows the opinion in the writing and in pie chart and diagrams for the better understanding.
The total number of the responses on the questionnaire method research on the opinion on Sedition by the Legal fraternity i.e., academicians, advocates and judges were forty five in number.
The education qualifications of the respondents were of generally law graduate as majority of legal fraternity study till law graduate. Further study is generally taken who opts for the academician profession. The educational qualifications of the respondents were as follows in percent: – law graduate-60, law post graduate-26.7, and post graduate- 6.7, PhD in law- 2.2, graduate- 2.2, and master of public health 2.2.
The profession of the respondents generally was the noble profession advocate as they fight for the voice of the dissenting people then academicians and judges. The profession of the respondents were as follows in percent:- advocate-55.6, academician-15.6, judges-11.1, law students-11.1, research analyst-2.2 and designing-2.2.
The experiences of majority of the respondents were between one to five years. This shows that the eagerness to response on colonial and draconian law of sedition were in the young law fraternity. The experience of the respondents was as follows in percent: – 1 to 5 years-86.7, 6 to 10 years-11.1 and 16 to 20 years-2.2.
Does a democratic country need to have law on sedition?
The majority of the respondents were agreed on the need of the law on sedition in a democratic country whereas few were not sure even though all the leading democratic states have either abolished or amended the sedition law. The response of the respondent on need of sedition law in a democratic state were as follows in percent:- yes-57.8, no-33.3 and maybe – 8.9.
Does India need law on sedition?
The respondents immensely supported the need of law of sedition in India. The increase in support might be due to Naxalism in red belt region, terrorist activities by Islamist-Khalistanis, North East-Kashmir separatism movement and Hindutva ideology-propaganda along with all these organizations sleeper cells and sympathizers. The response of the respondent on need of sedition law in India were as follows in percent: – yes-62.2, no-33.3, with strict guidelines for its application-2.2 and yes but very specific provisions must be included for not misusing the law for political or personal agendas-2.2.
Does the amendment required in Section 124A?
The respondents in immense number understand the need of amendment in Section 124A IPC even though agreed the need to have law of sedition in India. This shows the respondent understand that there is loopholes in the colonial law. The response of the respondents on amendment required in Section 124A IPC is as follows in percent: – yes-77.8, no-20 and the definition be elaborate properly-2.2.
Do you agree with stay order by Supreme Court on Sedition?
The majority of respondents supported the stay order of the Supreme Court on sedition as they agree with the need of an amendment in the law of sedition by legislation. The Law Commission of India time and again has recommended the government to either shun the sedition law completely or amend it. The response of the respondents on agreeing with stay order by Supreme Court on sedition is as follows in percent:- yes-75.6, no-24.4.
Do you think default bail petition should be required to apply after stay order on sedition by Supreme Court?
The majority of the respondents agreed with the under trial prisoner to apply the bail petition after stay order by the Supreme Court. Even though this make a long process for the prisoner to released the law fraternity supported it. This might be as they understand we don’t have man power in police to find and release on bond and sureties and a given person might be booked on other charges. Recently activist and scholar Sharjeel Imam has applied bail petition. The response of the respondent on agreeing with default bail petition required after stay order by Apex Court is as follows in percent:- yes-60, no-40.
Is the sedition law used arbitrarily by the state?
The majority of the respondents believe that the sedition law is used arbitrarily by state. This belief among the law fraternity is due to the continuous use of sedition law against the academicians, activists, advocates and journalist by the state for dissenting and criticising it. Eg:-CAA-NRC protest Assam-Akhil Gogai Case, Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad Case Pune and many more. The response of the respondents on whether sedition law used arbitrarily is as follows in percent: – yes-40, sometimes-44.4, no-15.6.
Does Sedition law interfere with freedom of speech and expression?
The majority of the respondents believe that the sedition law interferes with the freedom of speech and expression. This belief is due to the continuous arbitrary arrest by the state. The freedom of speech and expression is seen to be curtailed even in the humour on the state in the form of words, jokes, cartoons etc in the digital and mass media. The humour especially on the Chief Ministers and the Prime Ministers is taken seriously by the state, not in good conscience. The response of the respondent on whether freedom of speech and expression is interfered is as follows in percent: – yes 77.8, no-22.2.
Does sedition law protect Internal Security?
The majority of respondents believe that the sedition law protects the Internal Security of the state. This opinion is correct as sedition law protects from internal security i.e. overthrow of government by mutiny or revolt. The response of the respondents on whether sedition law protects the internal security is as follows in percent: – yes-77.8, no-22.2.
Does Sedition law protect External security?
The response of the respondent is mixed one both agreeing and disagreeing whether sedition law protects the external security. This response is due to few response that believe it protects from external aggression along with the UAPA Act, 1967 whereas others believed only UAPA act, 1967 looks after external aggression. UAPA stands for Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. The response is as follows in percent: – yes-51.1, no-48.9.
Does every citizen should be a Nationalist or Patriot?
The majority of respondents believes that the citizen should be both patriot and nationalist followed by an only patriot. This belief of being a nationalist led to the narrow mind of the society. Being a patriot means loving the state whereas being a nationalist means feeling of oneness on the base of region, ethnicity, religion etc. The response of the respondent is as follows in percent: – both-57.8, patriot-28.9, nationalist-8.9 and none-4.4.
Is the definition of Sedition as per Sec 124A IPC is vague?
The majority of respondent believe that the definition of sedition is vague. This opinion is due to its broad interpretation. Even after Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar, 1962 sedition law was upheld along with interpretation of Sec 124A IPC. The interpretation states that for sedition to be charged intention along with public disorder is necessary. The response of respondent is as follows in percent:- yes-80.4, no-19.6.
Does the interpretation of sedition law in Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar 1962 was justified?
The majority of the respondents agreed that the interpretation of sedition law in Kadar Nath v. the State of Bihar, 1962 was justified. The sad part is that the judgement was not followed as without intention to oust the government and public disorder the state has put charges of sedition on several dissenting and criticising citizens, the response of the respondent is as follows in percent:- yes-73.9, no-26.1.
Does the citizen of India feel uneasy to protest against the government policies?
The majority of the respondent agreed that the citizen feel uneasy to protest against the state policies and regulations. This we have seen especially in recent trend. Even when the people protest either they are booked in fabricated cases under Preventive Detention Act (almost every state has this law), Sedition- Sec 124A Indian Penal Code, National Security Act 1980, Unlawful Activities Preventive Act 1967. If not booked then the state make sure that protest does not go to every person by silencing the media by any means. Protest with no or little media coverage – Asha workers protest in Delhi, Save Hasdeo forest protest in Chhattisgarh. The response of the respondent is as follows in percent: – yes-73.9, no-26.1.
There is an urgent need of repealing the law of sedition even though the majority of the legal fraternity believes the amendment will be enough to protect the rights, freedom and liberty of the citizens. At present we have ample law to protect both internal and external security including sedition. The numerous laws which deal with both internal and external security besides sedition are the Preventive Detention acts in almost all states under state jurisdiction, Armed Forces Special Powers act 1958, Armed Forces Special Powers act 1990, Unlawful Activities Prevention act 1967, National Security act 1980, National Investigation Agency act 2008. The stay order by the Apex Court was done at the correct time as it was needed of the hour. The amendment will not be enough as the amendment will be done by the very own who put the false fabricated case on dissenting and criticising voices i.e. state. Being a patriot is what a citizen needs to be; instead, the state is asking to be both nationalist and patriot. Nationalism is the feeling of oneness among like ones i.e. homogenous society without any boundary of state, it leads to division in society. India being a heterogeneous society cannot afford to become a nationalist state i.e. Hindu Nationalism (majorities’ nationalism- Pakistan, Turkey, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Middle East and many more.) The Law Commission of India has recommended three times to repeal the law of sedition by looking at its arbitrary use in a large number. The use of all the draconian colonial laws needs to be abolished as we are living in a republic independent and democratic state. Most of the renowned judges, academicians, jurists, and advocates are advocating to repeal or amend the colonial laws like sedition. Some renowned names are Justice Madan Lokur, Adv. Indra Jaisingh, Justice Deepak Gupta and many more.
This research concludes that the state is in need of sedition to maintain the internal, and external security of the state and to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the state. This has come at the expense of the state’s unholy and unethical behaviour of targeting the dissenting and criticising voices among the masses. The need of sedition law amendment is required to check the state’s unholy and unethical behaviour over wrongful incarceration of the citizens. The use of sedition law arbitrarily should be none in number. Unfortunately both patriot and nationalist a citizen needs to be, as nationalism divides the society. The democracy of the state is seen by looking at the liberty and freedom given to its citizen. The time has come when we either repeal or amend the draconian colonial law of sedition.