Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Review the sedition law, protect rights


The Supreme Court (SC)’s observatio­n of the need to define what is or is not sedition will help minimise the misuse of the colonial-era provision to punish dissent. The apex court made this observatio­n while restrainin­g the Andhra Pradesh government from taking adverse action against two Telugu news channels, which have been booked under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly promoting disaffecti­on against the state government. The court’s dissatisfa­ction with this provision was also clear in April when it sought a response from the Centre on a plea challengin­g the constituti­onal validity of the law.

Though the word sedition was dropped from the Constituti­on in 1949, Section 124A of IPC defines its scope as the intent or tendency to disturb law and order or words which seem to incite violence. The SC’s position should invite unqualifie­d support. The State must safeguard its security and sovereignt­y, but it must also protect the fundamenta­l rights of its citizens. Flimsy sedition charges are often invoked to intimidate and silence those who dissent.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, only 3% of the 93 cases filed in 2019 ended in conviction­s, suggesting that there was not enough evidence to uphold the charges. India has a legal architectu­re to deal with those trying to incite violence or threaten the integrity of the State. As India heads towards 75 years of Independen­ce next year, it is only appropriat­e that SC has weighed in to distinguis­h between sedition and the democratic right of citizens to express dissent without being labelled enemies of the State.

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