Nearly a year after quashing the sedition law, the Supreme Court will hear on Monday petitions challenging the validity of the colonial-era penal law. It is expected that during the hearing on Monday, the central government may inform the top court about the steps taken so far in relation to the review of the controversial penal law. Many other petitions, including the petition filed by the Editors Guild of India regarding this law, are also pending in the apex court.
Earlier, on October 31 last year, the top court had asked the government to take appropriate steps to review the sedition law. For this, the court had also given additional time to the government. Also, the top court had extended its May 11 direction, staying the sedition law and consequent registration of FIRs.
In October last year, the central government had asked the bench for some more time to review, saying that something could happen in the winter session of Parliament as well.
Significantly, keeping this law on hold last year, a bench headed by the then CJI NV Ramana had ordered that apart from registering new FIRs, ongoing investigation in cases registered under this law, pending trial as well as sedition All proceedings under the law will remain suspended. The bench observed that “the harshness of section 124A (sedition) of the IPC is not in consonance with the present social environment”. Till such time the inquiry is not completed, it would be appropriate for the governments not to continue to use the aforesaid provision of law.
what in law
According to IPC 124A, if any person by words, speech, writing, gesture, visible sign or in any other way excites disaffection or attempts to excite disaffection, disobedience or incitement among the public against the Government established by law makes or attempts to do so, be deemed to be sedition, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation of many words of law in IPC also
- Resentment includes feelings of animosity and disloyalty.
- It shall not be sedition to make offensive remarks which tend to excite hatred, disobedience or disaffection, or without such attempt to pervert the affairs of the Government by lawful means.
- Those comments will also not be seditious, in which dislike is shown against the official and other works of the government but does not try to incite hatred, disobedience or disaffection.
Statements disturbing public order are considered treason
- The Punjab High Court in 1951 and the Allahabad High Court in 1959 held Section 124A to be unconstitutional and stifling freedom of expression.
- In 1962, the Supreme Court said in an order that statements made against the government or political parties are not illegal. But statements that disturb public order will come under the category of sedition.
By mistake the law could not be made for ten years
The history of sedition law is interesting. A 2018 Law Commission report states that Thomas Macaulay, the British officer who drafted the IPC in 1837, placed the sedition law in Section 113. But due to some mistake it could not be included in the IPC implemented in 1860. Section 124A was added to IPC in 1870 through Special Act 17. It was a copy of Britain’s ‘Sedition Act 1848′, in which punishments for the guilty ranged from three years’ imprisonment to forever being sent across the ocean.