The Supreme Court questioned the Centre on the constitutional validity of the sedition law, which has existed since the colonial-era.
The Chief Justice of India asked if the law which was used by the British to silence Gandhi was still needed after 75 years of Independence.
The apex court’s strong message came after a fresh plea by a former army officer challenging the Constitutional validity of the sedition law on the ground that it causes “chilling effect” on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right.
What is the Sedition Law?
The sedition Law (Sec.124A) was introduced in 1870. The offence is committed when any person brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt, towards the government.
In 1962, after a plea by Kedar Nath Singh, questioning the law’s validity, Supreme Court upheld the law but restricted its scope saying ‘Any act that has the effect of destabilizing the govt. by violent means or creating public disorder would come within the definition of sedition.
A citizen has a right to criticize or comment about the Govt. and its steps. as long as there is no incitement of violence or creation of public disorder.
Supreme Court observations:
The Chief Justice questioned the Attorney General on why this law was required after 75 years of independence.
Also following observations were made:
- The CJI observed that conviction rates are very low of this section and there is a huge scope for misuse of this law.
- There is no accountability of executive agencies.
- If some party doesn’t want to hear the voice of another party, they may use this law and implicate other people.
By the numbers:
- Since 2010, 10,938 people have been accused of sedition in 816 cases.
- 65% of the accused were charged after May 2014.
- According to NCRB data, between 2014-2019, 559 people were arrested for sedition and 10 were convicted.
(Sources: India today)