Sedition Law 101
Disclaimer: This author does not know whether the definition of S.124 applies to Dr.Binayak Sen’s case . This author (being a resident of Mumbai and having never been to Chhattisgarh) simply does not possess the superhuman skills of Liberal commentators, who being residents of Delhi have the investigative skills to ascertain the guilt or innocence of Dr.Binayak Sen’s actions in Chhattisgarh.
There has been a fair bit of commentary on the Sedition law recently. The legal developments of the Binayak Sen Case ranging from his life imprisonment sentence awarded by the Raipur Sessions Court to the subsequent bail granted by the Supreme Court have brought a lot of attention to Section. 124 of the Indian Penal Code: the Sedition Section.
The intention of this piece is not to make an ideological case for retaining S. 124. This author deems Sedition law along with other, now defunct laws like POTA necessary instruments of State Security. This piece merely lays out the basic tenants of S.124:
S.124 provides that whoever by
i. Words (spoken or written)
ii. Visible representations or
iii. Signs or
Brings or attempts to bring into hatred, contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection (which includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity) towards the Government established by law in India.
Is punishable with:
i. Imprisonment for life
ii. Imprisonment upto three years
Liberal commentators, true to their form have used much colorful language for S.124, from dismissing it as a ‘colonial relic’ to terming it constitutionally invalid. (‘Unconstitutional’ is a word used by liberal/Marxist commentators with more frequency than perhaps ‘Jesus’ is used by a devout Christian) Followers of Indian public events will testify to the fact that any interpretation contrary to the Nehruvian one is unfailingly dismissed as ‘unconstitutional’ (apart from being medieval, fascist, archaic, regressive etc.)
However in this case, the question of constitutional validity of S.124-A has been answered by none other than the Supreme Court of the country. In Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar, The Supreme Court laid down the precedent for interpretation of S.124. It held that an act can be interpreted as Sedition only if it constitutes direct incitement to violence or disorder. Thus the Supreme Court has held that S.124 does not violate Article 19 of the Constitution and is therefore, valid.
This Section, to put it plainly, does not violate personal liberty of Indian citizens. Explanations 2 and 3 provide express protection to any criticism of the Government. Thus any journalist or citizen criticizing the Govt. does not fall under this Section. This author understands if a Sweden or a Norway does away wit the Sedition law but India, besieged by various insurgencies and cross-border terrorist threats should be the last nation in the world to take its security lightly. The Sedition law is an important and useful instrument of State security.