Society

Sedition – A draconian provision

In this article, Shreyan writes about sedition as a widely misused law for exercising unjust powers.

British colonial rule was prevalent in India for over 200 years, during when, Indian citizens were subject to many undemocratic laws. One such was their Freedom of Expression. A collective effort helped India gain independence in 1947, with a state machinery committed to democratic principles. In general, a democratic institution ensures freedom of movement, expression and ensures equality. Indian Constitution was also framed based on these principles. But, some outmoded provisions have not yet been removed.

One such was “sedition”, which is still existing under the Indian law. This term gained publicity when Dr. Binayak Sen was charged under it. Sedition is an act against the State, but it has been very wrongfully used to curb free speech. Politicians have used it as a weapon to reduce public criticism. The focus of this article is to throw some light to understand how “Sedition is a bane to Freedom of Speech and Expression.”

The term ‘sedition’ has not been mentioned under the Indian Constitution, but it has been enumerated under the Indian Penal Code. Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code is a penal offence with respect to sedition. But, here we would not go into its constitutional validity. The purpose of raising the issue is to understand that despite our constitution has widely cherished the principle of “Freedom of Speech and Expression” as a Fundamental Right, but yet, such arbitrary provisions are there to destroy the sanctity of freedom of speech. India is known to be the biggest democracy in the world. The Indian society is based upon tolerance and harmony. In a democracy, a citizen is free to express his/her opinions. Such opinions need not necessarily be in favour of governmental policies. A true democracy also invites public criticism. But, some draconian provisions, deeply supported by our own leaders mars the very basic facet of our democratic institution. The archaic law aims to destroy a person’s opinion towards many issues.

Political parties and democratically elected leaders have widely misused the provisions to give mileage to their own party policies. At times, it has been abused for revengeful purposes against many citizens who dissent. We would like to highlight some of the instances where citizens have been exploited by the misuse of such provision. Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist, who once made a cartoon of a top leader was charged under it. The only mistake he made was to express his opinion freely through a picture. The reckless charge of grave offence was only to fulfil one’s personal interest was highly condemnable. Students from Meerut, also came under its attack, when they cheered for Pakistani Cricket Team in a cricket match. Recently, a Tamil singer has also been targeted. The purpose of the provision is to make sure that any writing, picture or content does not incite violence or disturbs religious harmony, but booking these personals under this is completely unjustifiable. Freedom of Expression must prevail in all instances, unless it is not harming national integrity. Cheering a cricket team or making a cartoon of a politician cannot be seen as inciting anything by a person with wisdom.

On many occasions, a need is felt to strike down such draconian provisions, but nothing has been done yet. This is pulling us back to the colonial era where any person would be imprisoned for expressing his/her opinion freely. If we truly consider our nation to be a successful democracy, then a collective effort is required to cherish the very facets of democracy. Otherwise, many more incidents will be witnessed, and it will only make citizens vulnerable to political exploitation.

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