Akanksha Singh , 02 March ,2021
The title of the article screams out loud and clear that voices are meant to be heard and acted upon because it’s WE THE PEOPLE who have concerns and objections and its WE THE PEOPLE suffering. Free speech and expression is the fundamental right of every Indian citizen but with rights we do have laws which help us regulate it, filter it and mold it in a way that glorifies each word spoken and gives meaning to the voices being raised.
Sadly enough , the voices that we heard out loud was “bharat tere tukde honge “ ,”Afsal hum sharmeenda hai tere qatil zinda hai “ and many more such slogans coming out from the mass youth gatherings . all we see is a big mockery on the nations face, but as every coin has two sides to it, it was hard for me to ignore the fact that 96% of sedition cases filed against 405 Indians for criticizing the Indian political leaders and the government over the last decade were registered after the Namenda Modi government came into power.
These cases were found to be filed continuously even after the Apex Court repeatedly made it clear that “criticism” is not “sedition”. According to the data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2019, shows 165% jump in the sedition cases during the BJP government regime.
Recent seditious malfunction : the toolkit case
A 22 year old climate activist Dish Ravi was charged with sedition and was immediately arrested without any theory establishing her link to the Red Fort Violence. The Charges against Disha Ravi included Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting hatred amongst various communities on social/cultural/religious grounds) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. She was also faulted of having Khalistani acquaintances as well as maneuvering to “promote disaffection against Indian state”. She was however granted bail as Judge Rana said that not even a jot of evidence had been conveyed to his notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on January 26 with the accused or with the Poetic Justice Foundation.
Criticism of sedition law in India
Section 124A of the IPC has come under denigration many times in the post independent India as it is measured to be a huddle in the path of actual freedom of speech and it is often termed as a tyrannic remnant of the colonial times questioning its mere existence in a free, independent India that is based on the pillars of democracy. The critics thus, have claimed time and again that this provision of the IPC stands in violation of the constitution and its very own provisions.
The Anti – sedition Law was first added to the IPC in the year 1870 by the British ruling the nation , so it is no surprise that the law was designed and introduced to suppress and restrict the Indian masses . Many famous freedom fighters were charged with these laws like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi etc. Mahatma Gandhi in fact, described this law as the “Prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizens.” So this law can be summed up as a colonial tool designed to subdue, contradicting the democratic belief.
The law can also be termed as vague, as it consists of terms such as” disaffection” where there is no clarity as to what can or cannot be classified as disaffection in various situations at hand . This uncertainty opens the doors to different interpretations as per the wimps and interests of the involved authorities.
I personally find these laws to be inconsistent with all the international commitments that India keeps on engaging in as we have signed various international treaties and covenants which include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the year 1979. This sets forth international standards for the protection of freedom of speech and expression globally. However we find misuse of sedition and arbitrary powers in India which makes such types of international commitments more or less inconsistent.
If we closely examine then we come across other provisions in the IPC and the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967, where they criminalize “disrupting the public order” or “overgrowing the government with violence and illegal means “. Hence, 121A seems like an unassay provision when there are other provisions existing to combat any actual tangible threat to the government.
Sedition is a very controversial concept and it must be held in balance with our right to freedom of speech which after the second tenure of the Modi government 2.0 has been completely out of balance. We have see that misuse of the sedition law has clearly destroyed many lives. According to the Data in the year 2019, 9% of the sedition case that were filed in the previous year and were still pending resulted in closure as the accused were untraceable and only 17 % of the cases could see the face of a chargesheet.
The autocratic strike of the present government regime is evident from the indiscriminate use of laws of sedition to yoke the fundament right guaranteed to us without any reasonable cause. India’s great fall from 27th position in the year 2014 to 53rd in the year 2020 in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index global ranking speaks for itself. India ranks 142 out of 180 countries according to World Press Freedom Index for the year 2020 and sadly enough India falls 17 stops to 111th rank in the year 2020 out of 162 countries according to the Human Freedom Index2020.
The sedition cases in today’s time are an unnecessary burden that the judiciary is carrying and it is comforting to note that while the Apex Court chooses to wait and watch as far as matters of sedition are concerned, the subordinate judiciary has openly started to question the age old colonial law.