Retention of sedition law with certain amendments by law commission

2 June, 2023 | Usha Sirotha

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Friday, June 2. According to the Commission, headed by former Karnataka high court chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Section 124A should be amended to align it with the Supreme Court’s 1962 verdict i...

Friday, June 2. According to the Commission, headed by former Karnataka high court chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Section 124A should be amended to align it with the Supreme Court’s 1962 verdict in the Kedar Nath Case. According to section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt the Government established by law in India, causes or attempts to cause disaffection, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and with fine, or with all.” In order to prevent “internal security threats” and crimes against the state, however, some amendments to the provisions may be introduced. The Commission in its report to the Law Ministry stated that there are threats to the internal security of India and the liberties of the citizens can be ensured only if when the security of the state is ensured. The commission said, that ‘The expression “propensity” means a mere inclination to incite violence or cause public disorder, rather than evidence of actual violence or imminent threat of violence. Along with this, there is more need to implement section 124A due to the spread of bigotry against India on social media. The right of convention can also be restricted under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. This right can be restricted on the following grounds. No citizen can be given freedom to organize such assembly or conference, which disturbs the peace of the people or puts the sovereignty and integrity of the country or public order in jeopardy. While dealing with the constitutionality of 124A, the Supreme Court held that the law was ‘constitutional’ as the restriction it sought to impose was a reasonable restriction. “UAPA is a specific law dealing with activities of terroristic or subversive nature, while NSA is only a law compromising with the prevention of direct attacks aimed against the State. The commission also said that just because the law is from ‘colonial’ times, it is not a “valid ground” for its repeal.”If sedition is considered a colonial-era law, then on that merit, the entire structure of the Indian legal system is a colonial legacy. The Law Commission in its report has also made certain observations regarding amendments to the provision including mandatory preliminary enquiry, procedural safeguards and amendments to penalties.
“Implementation of the Adhikari Nath judgment of the Supreme Court to bring greater clarity in the interpretation, understanding and application of the law of sedition. Detection of evidence by a police officer before registering a prima facie case for sedition and other procedural safeguards Mandatory preliminary inquiry should be ordered.” The commission has proposed an amendment to add a provision to Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to prescribe that an FIR for the offense of sedition be registered only after preliminary enquiry by a police officer, not below the rank of Inspector, and after permission by the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, on the basis of the preliminary enquiry report. The Commission said that it is making this recommendation taking note of the observations made by the Supreme Court regarding the potential abuse of the provision. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered to keep the provision in abeyance, taking note of the concerns expressed regarding the misuse of the provision to suppress dissent against the government. A bench led by the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had opined prima facie that “the rigours of Section 124A of IPC is not in tune with the current social milieum, and was intended for a time when this country was under the colonial regime”. The constitutionality of Section 124A of IPC was challenged in the Supreme Court.
The Union of India assured the Supreme Court that it was re-examining Section 124A and the court could not invest its valuable time in doing so. Accordingly and vide order passed on May 11, 2022, the Supreme Court directed the Central Government and all State Governments to refrain from registering any FIR or taking any coercive steps while suspending all ongoing investigations in respect of Section 124A. instructed. Further, it also directed that all pending trials, appeals and proceedings be kept in abeyance. The Commission said that if this logic is adopted, then the entire Indian Penal Code should be repealed for its colonial legacy. “The mere fact that a particular legal provision is colonial in its origin does not ipso facto validate the case for its repeal.

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