Major General (retired) SG Vombatkere has challenged the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the IPC which deals with the offense of sedition. During hearing the petition, the Chief Justice of India N V Ramana observed that the “colonial law” was also used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
About the Sedition Law
- The sedition law is enshrined in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- It was introduced by the British government, in 1870, to tackle dissent against colonial rule.
- According to the section 124A, the charges could be put on whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India.
- He/She shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”
Criticism of the sedition law
- The sedition law is challenged because it has a “chilling effect” on speech and it poses an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right of free expression.
- Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution guarantees Indian citizens’ freedom of speech and expression.
Earlier challenges and ruling
- In the landmark case of 1962, Kedar Nath versus Union of India, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the sedition law at the same tried to curtail its misuse.
- The court said that criticism of the government cannot be labeled sedition unless accompanied by incitement or a call for violence.
When was the sedition law introduced in India?
- The law was used to suppress the writings and speeches of Indian nationalists and freedom fighters.
- The first application of the law was the trial of newspaper editor Jogendra Chandra Bose in 1891.
- Other prominent examples of the application of the law include the trials of Tilak (1897) and Gandhi (1922).
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and Abul Kalam Azad were also charged with sedition.