If the government has any regard for democratic values and judicial wisdom, it is high time that they repeal Section 124A, writes BINOY VISWAM.
EVER since the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) led Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has been in power, the democratic spirit of the Constitution has constantly been under attack. The ideals enshrined in the constitution and the very notion of democracy embodied in it are under threat from the managers of state power.
In the name of patriotism, attempts have been made to imbibe a markedly different variant that has no concern for the masses and has, in return, no acceptance from them. For them, dissent is a crime, and the term anti-national has been used systematically to unleash an attack on those who dare to raise their voices against ‘Hindutva’.
Nobody, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds or cultural afflictions is spared from charges of sedition. Sedition law is a strategic project and section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is its primary weapon. With each passing day, India is humiliated by the rampant misuse of this draconian law. It is a shame for the secular-democratic fabric of the country that was realised through immense struggle and sacrifices. This is precisely why the Communist Party of India (CPI) in its recently held National Executive committee meeting demanded revoking Section 124A from the IPC.
Also read: Now, Mere Disagreement is Sedition
SIGNIFICANCE OF SEDITION LAW FOR THE RIGHT-WING
However, the ideologies of RSS-BJP constantly endeavour to glorify this draconian law attempting to paint it as the synonym for allegiance to the nation. They forget that this law was enacted by the British colonial government in 1870 to brutally squash the Indian freedom movement.
It is an insult to adherents of democracy that a colonial law remains untouched even after seven decades of having attained independence. It is the most atrocious facet of our colonial past, slavishly celebrated by the ruling classes of independent India.
This is a paradox that goes against freedom-loving people who cherish the glorious saga of the struggle for emancipation.
However, the BJP and its parent organisation the RSS, who had no role in the Indian freedom struggle rush to Section 124A, now and then to stifle the voices of dissent.
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, considered Section 124A as, “the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
Also read: Why the Supreme Court must declare Sedition Law unconstitutional
RECENT INSTANCES OF ABUSE OF SEDITION LAW
Under Modi’s rule, it has often been used against the masses and committed activists alike. This section of the IPC in letter and spirit directly contradicts Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression. Furthermore, it also goes against Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21(right to life and personal liberty).
One can only wonder how such a repressive law is being allowed to do its rounds without any inhibitions. The country witnessed on several occasions, the blatant misuse of Section 124A, ranging from the Kedar Nath case (1962) to the Kanhaiyya Kumar case (2015).
Resistance to it has prevailed throughout the years. However, the government has traditionally not heeded the people’s voice. It was widely used across the country during the anti-CAB-NRC agitations.
When universities rose to defend academic freedom, they had to pay a heavy price.
Human rights activists, in large numbers, were put behind bars.
Journalists and intellectuals were also not spared.
Recently adding to that long list was Aisha Sultana, a young filmmaker from Lakshadweep. The Modi-Shah-led government repeatedly resorts to the use of this colonial weapon to teach its ugly lessons to the citizens of India.
The recent verdict of the Supreme Court on the Vinod Dua case should have been an eye-opener for the government. One must also bear in mind that the Delhi High Court, in the much-discussed case of Jamia and JNU students explicitly stated that “in its anxiety to suppress the dissent and the morbid fear that matters may go out of hand, the state has blurred lines between constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity”.
Therefore if the government has any regard for democratic values and judicial wisdom, it is high time that they repeal Section 124A.
Also read: The necessity of Dissent in a Liberal Democracy
THE CORE OF SEDITION LAW AND ITS CURRENT IMPLICATION
A mere look at the very definition of Section 124A will help us understand the criminal intentions of the makers of sedition law. Section 124A of the IPC reads “…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 attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added.”
By enacting this law, the colonial rulers aimed to prevent people’s disaffection towards them. The government of India, after 71 years, making use of the same law to extract people’s loyalty towards them is shameful. The citizens of India love their country, but should not be expected to love a government that brings burden, hardships, and hatred on them. (IPA Service)