While most of the developing countries of the world have rejected and scrapped the infamous sedition laws,but India being the largest democracy has yet not taken any appropriate steps to discontinue this draconian law which pollutes the modern democracy.United Kingdom has itself abolished its own law on sedition almost a decade ago.

Today India is facing the misuse of this law by the government to curb one of the essential fundamental right available to the citizens of India i,e freedom of speech and expression.

Sedition was made an offence under the Indian Penal Code of 1860 which was drafted by [British Whig politician] Thomas Macaulay as a tool of colonial domination.Section 124A of Indian Panel Code deals with Sedition.This section criminalise anyone who “through words,either written or spoken,or by signs,or by visual representation,or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government”,with the term disaffection meaning “disloyalty and all feelings of enmity”.

In pre-independent India the sedition law was used as a tool by the Britishers to suppress the freedom movement and suppress all forms of dissent by Indians against the British Raj.This law was criticised by the nationalist leaders of Indian freedom struggle, including Mahatma Gandhi.He was charged with sedition.His opinion regarding this law was – “designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.

The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru opined against the sedition provision,Section 124A IPC,in Parliament.But no government thought it necessary to amend this provision of IPC .Unfortunately in India the Government uses this colonial law against its own people to persecute political dissents.

The sedition law is not misused only by a single political party.Since independence many have been procecuted in the name of sedition by governments as a response to criticism .
But since 2016 we have observed that the use sedition charges have been increasing rapidly .Infact we can call Modi’s regime as a ‘regime master in using sedition laws’.Anyone who stands against the government or government’s policies or criticise the Prime Minister is considered to be anti-national and are charged with sedition.

India is no longer ruled by the Britishers but our government still have a colonial hangover ,they too uses the draconian laws such as sedition to subvert criticisms against them.
It is very necessary for the Government to understand that Constructive criticism of government should be treated as an expression of love towards the nation.This cannot be sedition.The Government should listen to the public and create an environment where the public can put forward their opinion without any fear.Since, the essence of democracy is criticism.

The frequency of use of section 124A as a weapon of political repression against people including students and teenagers, is shocking.Charge sheets were filed only in few number of cases and handful ended without conviction by the higher courts.This should be the sufficient reason to scrap this regressive law.

In many cases there seems to be no application of mind by the police.Recently 19-year-old Amulya Leona was arrested by Bengalure police for saying Pakistan Zindabad in public forum.The arrest doesn’t past the test of the Supreme Courts guidelines that mere sloganeering doesn’t amount to sedition.

Critisism of government , questioning policies which are considered to be the essence of democracy are now treated as sedition by police under political pressure.Such behaviour of the government towards the protesters and critics shows that the very idea of democracy is in danger in India .The law of sedition destroys the basic freedoms of the people.

The present government ,instead of analysing the reasons as to why it’s citizens are protesting, is using the sedition law as a tool to curb the contrarian voices.

It is high time for Independent India to scrap the black law like sedition that emanated from the hand of colonial rulers and let free speech to flourish.

Ananya Saikia is a L.LM student and a social activist from Assam


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