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Don’t back down | The Indian Express


After upholding the Sedition Act in 1962, the Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutional validity of this colonial provision is a pivotal investigation. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which defines the offense of “sedition”, punishes the act of exciting “disaffection” against the government established by law, or causing it to “hate or contempt”. . The sweeping nature of the provision lies not just in the words of the definition, but also in the sentence prescribed – life imprisonment with an additional fine or an additional three-year prison term. The provision was incorporated in its current form into the Penal Code (IPC) in 1898, nearly four decades after the IPC was introduced and has stood the test for constitutionality ever since. After at least two high courts – Punjab and Allahabad – struck down the Sedition Act as an exception to free speech in the 1950s, a bench of five Supreme Court judges in the Kedar Nath Singh case against the State of Bihar (1962) upheld its constitutionality. However, the SC only limited it to the extent that the seditious speech tended to incite “public disorder”, a phrase which the provision itself does not contain but which has been interpreted by the Court. In its “guidance” on the use of the new restrictive sedition law definition, the Court did not declare all speech of “disaffection”, “hate” or “contempt” against the state, but only speech likely to incite “public disorder”. would be called sedition. It is a welcome sign that the government, after its initial defense of the law, told the Supreme Court that it would reconsider the provision.

On Monday, referring to the Prime Minister’s views on abandoning colonial baggage as the country marks 75 years since independence, the Interior Ministry asked the SC to postpone the hearing for the time being until that a “competent forum”, presumably Parliament, deliberates on the matter. The Sedition Act became obsolete in the UK in the 1960s and was finally repealed in 2009. Last year Singapore, which like India inherited colonial English law, repealed the law by declaring that several new laws can sufficiently deal with the problems which fell within the scope of sedition. straight. Let’s hope the government’s change in stance isn’t meant to rule out the prospect of a review and push reform into the cold.

The government emphasizes the “need for balance” in affidavits before the court, but not in invoking the provision against comedians, journalists and ordinary citizens expressing their displeasure with the government. Successive reports from the Law Commission and even the Supreme Court have documented widespread misuse of the law. The authority to identify and distinguish genuine expression from seditious speech cannot be the police. Magistrates who are the primary advocates of citizens’ rights in the justice system often meet state demands routinely and without proper application of mind. Whether or not the government decides in favor of repealing the law, the Court must take this attempt to its logical conclusion. The case is too important to be put on hold.

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