Abolish ‘Sedition’ Law - An Assault on Democracy


The sedition law was legislated by the British Govt. for the protection of their regime and silence Indian voice against their rulers and the British Govt. It was to check Indian voice which were seeking independence from the British rulers.
Now in the context of the State of J&K- What is sedition defined is in the Ranbir Penal Code Section 124-A.
It states" Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt's or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards 5[ x x x x ] 6[ the governor] or the Government established by law in 7[India] or in Jammu and Kashmir State, shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Explanation 1.- The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
Explanation 2.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite harted, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
Explanantion 3.- Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section."
The Sedition law is against Democratic institution. Generally it is being misused than its genuine use. It is no sedition to criticise Govt. policies criticize executive or its head , legislators or judiciary, Criticism flourishes democracy, criticism by press to Govt. Policies is a freedom of press and is Fundamental Rights enshrined in the constitution of India. Govt. may supress the voice by adpoting different Tactics but it reacts Forcibly when occasion comes British Govt. could not suppress the true voice how can anybody else can conceive that he can concquer people by force & suppressing them by lodging F.I.R.s, no Govt. can run on lodging F.I.R.s of sedition or by wrongful confinments indefinitely . Govt. can concquer people state or country by love & affection & not by hate. Sedition law must be abolished and let it be a dead letter in statute.
" MR. Justice Deepak Gupta, Judge, Supreme Court Of India" Said "The right to dissent is one of the most important rights guaranteed by our Constitution. As long as a person does not break the law or encourage strife, he has a right to differ from every other citizen and those in power and propagate what he believes is his belief. The judgment of H. R. Khanna, J. in A.D.M. Jabalpur case1, is a shining example of a dissent which is much more valuable than the opinion of the majority. This was a judgment delivered by a fearless, incorruptible Judge. Judges are administered oath wherein they swear or affirm to perform the duties to the best of their ability without fear or favour, affection or ill will. First and foremost part of the duty is to do one's duty without fear. As I said earlier, ?fear' is not a word which existed in the dictionary of Justice P.D. Desai. In fact, this is a word which should not exist in the dictionary of any person who professes to be a judge.
A very important aspect of a democracy is that the citizens should have no fear of the government. They should not be scared of expressing views which may not be liked by those in power. The British used the law of sedition to curb any demand for independence. In the case of Lokmanya Tilak3, which was tried by a Jury, the presiding Judge, Justice Strachey, while explaining to the Jury the meaning of sedition had this to say:
"The offence as defined by the first clause is exciting or attempting to excite feelings of disaffection to the Government. What are "feelings of disaffection"? I agree with Sir Comer Petheram in the Bangobasi case that disaffection means simply the absence of affection. It means hatred, enmity, dislike, hostility, contempt and every form of ill-will to the Government. "Disloyalty" is perhaps the best general term, comprehending every possible form of bad feeling to the Government. That is what the law means by the disaffection which a man must not excite or attempt to excite; he must not make or try to make others feel enmity of any kind towards the Government. You will observe that the amount or intensity of the disaffection is absolutely immaterial except perhaps in dealing with the question of punishment: if a man excites or attempts to excite feelings of disaffection, great or small, he is guilty under the section. In the next place, it is absolutely immaterial whether any feelings of disaffection have been excited or not by the publication in question. It is true that there is before you a charge against each prisoner that he has actually excited feelings of disaffection to the Government. If you are satisfied that he has done so, you will, of course, find him guilty. You cannot force people to have affection for the Government and merely because people have disaffection or strongly disagree with the views of the Government or express their disagreement in strong words, no sedition is made out unless they or their words promote or incite or tend to promote or incite violence and endanger public order. The constitutional validity of Section 124A has to be read in the context of Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Thus, it is clear that advocating any new cause however unpopular or uncomfortable it may be to the powers that be, it must be permitted. Majoritarianism cannot be the law. Even the minority has the right to express its views. We must also remember that in India we follow the first past the post principle. Even Governments which come in with a huge majority do not get 50% of the votes. Therefore, though they are entitled to govern or be called as majority, it cannot be said that they represent the voice of all the people. There is another very important aspect of this interplay between freedom of expression and the law of sedition, and here I would also discuss the offence of creation of disharmony under Section 153A and criminal defamation under Section 499-500 IPC. Sedition can arise only against a Government established by law. Government is an institution, a body and not a person. Criticism of persons cannot be equated with criticism of the Government. During the dark days of Emergency, an attempt was made by one Party President to equate his leader with the country. That attempt miserably failed and, I am sure that no one will ever try in future to equate a personality with this country of ours which is much bigger than any individual. Criticism of senior functionaries may amount to defamation for which they can take action in Kedar Nath Singh's case. Sadly, day in and day out, we read of people being arrested in different parts of the country for making cartoons, making not so complementary references about the heads of the State, etc. To conclude, I would say that if this country is to progress not only in the field of commerce and industry but to progress in the field of human rights and be a shining example of an effective, vibrant democracy then the voice of the people can never be stifled. I can do no better than quote the words of Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore:
?Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.?

(Writer is an Advocate practicing in J&K High Court Jammu, former Bar President of J&K HCBA Jammu and President of Jammu Newspapers Editors Guild)

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