Author: Akansha Chaudhary, Student at O.P Jindal Global University
The line between right to freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India and the sedition law provided under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) has existed very thinly thereby leading to uncertainty regarding the co-existence of the two in the Indian society. The Supreme Court of India (SC) gave a revival to the debate on the validity of the sedition laws in India when it quashed the sedition case against veteran journalist, Vinod Dua. The primary ambiguity has been the extend to which a comment or expression may amount to sedition and how does one measure the impact it creates in terms of “exciting hatred, contempt or disaffection”. There is also an imperative requirement for the formulation of guidelines defining the limits of the applicability of the respective section as provided by the SC.
Currently, there has been a surge of several sedition cases in numerous areas, be it the sedition case against the teachers and parents on the performance of a school play which was said to criticize the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, against students such as Umair Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar and others for allegedly raising anti-Indian slogans, against environmental activist, Disha Ravi on the ground of allegedly defaming the image of India and so on. In several instances, even a comment or criticism of the ruling party has resulted in a charge of sedition as a database formulated after 2014 by Article 14 recorded 96% of sedition cases filed against 405 Indians for criticising the politicians and governments in a decade.
Therefore, the motive behind the formulation of sedition laws in India has taken a questionable stance. This article aims to ascertain whether the sedition law in India serve the purpose to maintain public order or it acts as an arbitrary power endowed in the hands of the government to coerce any opposition from the citizens and the opposition?