NEW DELHI: A day after the Supreme Court expressed concern over enormous misuse of the sedition law, an NGO Friday filed a petition before it challenging it’s constitutional validity on grounds that it is anachronistic and has lost all relevance in a free democracy like India.
The petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said that sedition was a political crime, originally enacted to prevent political uprisings against the Crown and to control the British colonies.
A law of such “repressive” character, has no place in independent India, it said.
Former Union Minister Arun Shourie also moved the top court on Thursday against the law.
A bench headed by the CJI N V Ramana on Thursday flagged the misuse and asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to silence people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress freedom movement.
The Section 124-A (sedition) under the IPC is non-bailable provision and it makes any speech or expression that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The NGO in its petition said, the impugned provision is anachronistic, and has lost all relevance in a free democracy like India.
In this context it is submitted that sedition is a political crime, originally enacted to prevent political uprisings against the Crown and to control the British colonies.
It is argued that a law of such repressive character, has no place in independent India, it said.
The petition added, “The law of sedition was introduced in 1870 into the IPC, as derived from the British Sedition Act of 1661, as a colonial tool to criminalise dissent against the British imperialist regime, and in particular to supress the Indian independence struggle.
Thus, since its conception, sedition has possessed a distinctly political nature and has been used to stifle political opposition and criticism of the British Monarchy,” the plea said.
The plea stated that terms like ‘disaffection’ ‘disloyalty’ ‘disapprobation’ etc.
used to define sedition are vague and therefore make the provision void.
The apex court on Thursday agreed to examine the pleas filed by Editors Guild of India and a former major general, challenging the constitutionality of the law, and said its main concern was the “misuse of law”.
Shourie, in his petition, urged the court to declare the law as unconstitutional as it has come to be heavily abused with cases being filed against citizens for exercising their freedom of speech and expression.
His petition claimed that the definition of sedition (Section 124-A of IPC) was vague and incapable of accurate appreciation by the common citizen and the law enforcement agencies/ police.
Punishment under the law varies from imprisonment up to three years to a life term and fine.