Chief Justice of the Supreme Court N.V. Ramana recently asked the Attorney General of the Central Government, “Is there a need for a law of ‘treason’ which reminds us of the remnants of colonialism after 75 years of independence?” According to the court, section 124 (a) of the Act is being grossly misused.
The ‘Sedition Act’ was enacted by the British to suppress the freedom movement in India and to ‘calm down’ popular leaders at the national level like Mahatma Gandhi. This oppressive, oppressive law was unfortunately maintained even after independence. As a result, the government has been using it as a weapon. This law is used by the central or state government against those who speak and write against us.
In fact, the British repealed the law in their country in 2009. It had been used sparingly for decades before that. But we are sticking to this law and so are our neighbors.
Most of our laws are British. It also includes the IPC, the Indian Penal Code. It has been in force since 1860. The point is, not all British laws are outdated. The law of treason, however, was indeed a model of British intelligence. When it is used by the government even today, it reminds me of ‘British Raj’.
According to the Union Home Ministry, a total of 326 cases were registered under the Sedition Act during the five-year period from 2014 to 2019. The highest number of 56 cases was reported in Assam. In fact only six people were convicted during this period.
The Home Ministry has not yet collected the 2020 figures. Out of 56 cases registered in Assam, chargesheets were filed in 26 cases and hearing of 25 cases was completed. But no one has been convicted in any of the cases in the state.
In Jharkhand, 40 cases were registered under section 124 (a) of the IPC in six years. Chargesheets were filed in 29 cases and trial was completed in 16 cases. Only one of them was convicted.
In Haryana, 31 cases were registered under this Act. Chargesheets were filed in 19 cases and the case was completed in six cases. Only one of them was convicted.
In Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala, 25 cases were reported each. No chargesheet was filed against anyone in Bihar and Kerala, but chargesheets were filed in three cases in Jammu and Kashmir. However no one was convicted in these three states.
22 cases were reported in Karnataka. Chargesheets were filed in 17 of the cases, but only one case was completed. No one was convicted.
17 cases were reported in Uttar Pradesh and 8 in West Bengal. Chargesheets were filed in eight cases in Uttar Pradesh and five in West Bengal, but no one was convicted.
Four cases of treason were registered in Delhi, but no charges were filed against anyone.
No treason cases were registered in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Union Territories. One crime each was reported in Maharashtra, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
According to the Home Ministry, 93 cases of treason were registered in the country in 2019.
70 in 2018
51 in 2017
35 in 2016
30 in 2015
And in 2014, 47 cases were reported.
In 2019, 40 chargesheets were filed under the Sedition Act.
38 in 2018,
27 in 2017,
16 in 2016,
6 in 2015
In 2014, 14 chargesheets were filed.
Two of the six convicted were convicted in 2018 and one each in 2019, 2017, 2016 and 2014. No one was convicted in 2015.
The enactment of the Sedition Act was aimed at keeping the British colonial empire intact. The British needed such a law to curb the hatred that was created and perpetuated among the people against the government. But in a democracy, such a law has no meaning. Because the government is elected by the people. Therefore, the conspiracy to overthrow it cannot be hatched by the public, an organization, a journalist. It is completely wrong to look at his criticism of the government through those glasses. It is considered normal in a democracy to dislike or criticize certain policies of our government. It is the right of the people, if it is denied, then how can it be said that the system of governance is awakening to the title of ‘democracy’?
So why should a democratically elected government need such a law? It is a sad fact that such a law is the worst law in a democracy. Even so, the law has not been repealed by any prime minister or government to date.
Our democracy is able to differentiate between the national interest and the government interest. Democracy is considered stronger, more flexible and more flexible than any other form of government. Because the people there can point fingers at the mistakes of their government and save the government from mistakes.
But in our country, this law is often used in a ridiculous way. The Uttar Pradesh government has filed a treason case against a journalist. After all, he reported the death of a farmer in a police shooting. According to the autopsy report, he may have died in an accident. The case was registered after the concerned journalist later corrected his tweet. State police have not yet taken any action on the FIR. But it has all been recorded in the records.
Many such examples can be given. In 2003, AIADMK had filed a treason case against cartoonist Asim Trivedi and singer Kovan for mocking Jayalalithaa. Today, the BJP government is printing FIRs of treason like the currency of the traffic police.
We will move on to the next question of the Chief Justice. If the punishment under this law is less then why this law? This is because the judicial process of any law is time consuming or it can be suppressed. When an FIR is registered in a treason case, it takes a long time to remove it from the record. So this law is often used even for wrong cases.
So any government loves this law. The Attorney General did not openly support the law on the first day of the Supreme Court hearing. However, the law should not be repealed, he said. He told the court that some amendments should be made in the law so that it would not be misused. In fact, the Supreme Court has reviewed the law twice to date. The first was in the Kedarnath Singh case in 1962 and the second in the Balwant Singh case in 1995.
Despite this, the law has become oppressive in recent times. Hence the need and urgency to cancel it.
Vikas Parashram Meshram is working in the development sector