Written by: Shubham B Jha (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
Two journalists from Manipur and Chhattisgarh have filed a writ petition in the Apex Court of India challenging the legality and the necessity of the much controversial law of Sedition as mentioned in Section 124A of the Penal Code, 1860. Mr. Kishore Chandra Wangkhemcha and Mr. Kanhaiyalal Shukla are journalists who were recently booked by the authorities under Sedition Laws for questioning and criticizing the state and the central government’s policy. Both the journalists represented by Mr. Colin Gonsalves appealed to the Supreme Court that the Sedition Laws be made unconstitutional and void because such laws today are unnecessary and outdated. The law is also in violation of basic fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. The Indian sedition law punishes words, actions or gestures which bring or attempts to bring disaffection or hatred towards the government established by law in India with punishment up to imprisonment for life under Section 124A of the IPC, 1860.
The three judge Apex court bench consisting of Justice U. U Lalit, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice KM Joseph, which is led by Justice Lalit after due consideration of the petition sought a reply from the Central Government by 12th July 2021 which is when the next hearing of the case is scheduled.
The petition submitted that the instant section is in violation of the right to freedom of speech and expression as provided under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. It further said that the restriction imposed by the impugned section is unreasonable and therefore does not constitute a permissible restriction as stated under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
The petitioners called out the Court for its 1962 judgment in the case of Kedar Singh and Others vs. State of Bihar and said that the judgment of the court may have been correct at the time but the impugned section fails the constitutional test in modern times. It says that there may have been a need for the present section in 1962 to manage public order and control general violence but the present need for the section has exhausted.
The plea before the court also opined that there are plenty of other legislations enacted by the legislature over the years like the UAPA, the PSA and the NSA; such legislations directly deal with the incitement of violence among public and causing general public disorder. The already enacted legislations outdate the need for Section 124A, IPC.
The petition also submitted three contentions which underline the necessity to describe the present section unconstitutional. Firstly, it said that India is a ratified member of the ICCPR and according to Article 19; the right to freedom of expression are protected. Section 124A fails as a ‘reasonable restriction’.
The second contention made by the petition is that the section has been misused frequently; the use of this section has been abusive, it has been slapped on anyone intending to question the government of the day on their policies. Although the rather misuse of a section does not necessarily mean that it is unconstitutional but it does point out the uncertain and the vague nature of the law.
The third contention made by the petition points out that all the evolved and true democracies of the developed world have either repealed the law or the law commission of such countries have recommended its repeal. England, who was the author of the controversial law, has repealed the law already. New Zealand and Ghana have also repealed the impugned law. Based on the above contentions, the petition has pleaded before the apex court to declare the law of sedition under section 124A as unconstitutional and void.