Will India be released from Sedition? Supreme Court takes the fight against the draconian law!

India's father Mahatma Gandhi said that sedition is the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Gandhi's words still hold to be true even 75 years after Independence. Besides being colonial law introduced by the British rule, sedition is called a draconian section in India. The section has haunted many for exercising their fundamental rights and has been degrading the freedom of an independent Indian. 

The regimes that reigned India after independence have used the section to strangulate the freedom of expressions and voices that arose against the governments. For its murkier face, sedition has always been on the top of the list to get repealed, and ever since Modi came to power, his regime has begun to embrace sedition and use the prince to suppress the liberties of the citizens. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the rate of sedition cases increased by 160% in recent times, while the conviction rate fell from 33.3% (2016) to 3.3% (2019). 

The dramatic decline in the conviction rate in three years has revealed the exercise of flawed booking of sedition and illegitimate use of the law on the people across the country. Sedition has invited several activists, students, and common people to its book for speaking against the government and its policies. Hundreds of activists have been fighting to repeal the sedition law from the Indian Penal code. The fight is not for being colonial but for being draconian that doubts the real state of independence. 

The fight against sedition has now been taken by the Supreme Court as it has asked the Union government - why do we still need it? On Thursday, the apex court had raised concerns over the grave misuse of colonial-era sedition law - section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana asked the Union government why it was not repealing the law. The bench had comprised of the Chief Justice and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.

According to PTI, the bench has asked, "Mr Attorney General, we want to ask some questions. This is the colonial-era law and the same law was used by the British to suppress the freedom movement. It was used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Gokhale, and others. Is it still necessary to keep this in statute even after 75 years of independence?" Expressing its main concern for misusing the law, the apex court bench has issued a notice to the Union government with this regard and directed to reply to it. 

Several pleas were filed at the Supreme Court against the sedition and appearing for the Editors Guild of India, senior advocate Shyam Divan said that a separate plea has been filed by the journalists' body to challenge the validity of section 124A (sedition) and asked the bench to tag the plea along with the present one. He further said that apart from fighting the validity of sedition, the Guild has also sought framing of guidelines to alleviate the misuse of the section. 

The reports say that the bench was hearing the fresh plea moved by retired army officer SG Vombatkere in which he challenged the validity of sedition and it causes a chilling effect on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, which is a fundamental right. Hearing his plea, the bench said that Vombatkere had given his entire life to the country and his motive in filing the case cannot be questioned. The former army officer has noted that sedition is wholly unconstitutional and should be struck down. 

Hearing the petition on Thursday, the apex court had observed that the provision of sedition has been put to plenty of misuses. The Chief Justice observed that a factionist can invoke these types of provisions to implicate the other group of people and added that if the particular party or people do not want to hear a voice, they will use this law to implicate others. The justices also said, "We don't know why the government is not taking a decision. Your government has been getting rid of stale laws." The bench has said that it was not blaming any state or government, but the executive agency misuses these laws and there is no accountability. 

The bench has further noted that there was a very low percentage of convictions in sedition cases and these are the issues that are needed to be decided. However, on the other side, Attorney General KK Venugopal has backed the provision and said that it should remain in the book and the court can frame guidelines to alleviate the misuses of the law.