Amongst the debate on the Law of Sedition and its constitutionality, it is imperative to note that the matter is sub-judice before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. Keeping that in mind, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has been on the forefront of rectifying the historical wrongs committed in the 55 years rule of the Congress party. With the same ethos, the Central Government has taken a very progressive stand and filed an affidavit before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, expressing its intention to re-examine and reconsider the provision of sedition i.e., Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
Instead of appreciating the progressive stand taken by the Central Government, the opposition has disparaged the Central Government stating that Sedition Law is being misused under the BJP rule. Needless to mention that such empty accusations are of no good specially when citizens of this country understand that it is the Congress party that has exploited this provision of Law whereby, they have continued to impose restrictions on the Freedom of Expression as guaranteed and enshrined under the Constitution of India. Under the guise of the Sedition Law, the Congress Party has imposed sedition on various politicians, journalists, social workers to muzzle the truth.
One of the most fundamental principles deeply rooted in the BJP is the Freedom of Expression and that’s why instead of suffocating the voice of the truth and dissent, it has learnt to get better by working on its criticism. The BJP had to experience many protests fueled by the ulterior motives of the Opposition party. However, these protests could not sustain for long as they were not based on good intentions and concrete facts. Instead they were staged upon fabricated facts to mudsling the honest initiatives of the BJP Government.
India being a democratic country, everyone is free to voice their opinion. However, the Law of Sedition as it stands today makes the act of exciting disaffection/ hatred towards the Government punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years. However, when we would be revisiting the provision of sedition, it would be crucial to strike a balance between the Fundamental Rights as enshrined under the Indian Constitution and at the same time to maintain Law and Order to ensure a peaceful society.
The Congress party has believed in muzzling the Right of Freedom of Speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. In 1951, Nehru brought in the First Amendment of the Constitution to limit the Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) and enacted Article 19(2) to empower the
State put curbs in the form of “reasonable restrictions” on Right to Free Speech. Under the Congress regime, in the year 1962 when the charge of sedition was imposed by the Government of Bihar on Kedarnath, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the landmark decision laid down the law of ‘Sedition’ while reprimanding the Congress Government held, “It is only when the words, written or spoken, etc. which have the pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law steps in to prevent such activities in the interest of public order. So construed, the section, in our opinion, strikes the correct balance between individual fundamental rights and the interest of public order.”
Smt Indira Gandhi first thought of taking steps to end the Freedom of the Press in 1971, when she was also handling the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Indira Gandhi with the motive to end the monopoly of the owners of newspapers prepared such a law that would ensure that the representatives of the Government would get more power on the newspapers’ boards. During the 1971 war with Pakistan, Indira Gandhi ended the freedom of the press. During this period all the restrictions which were imposed by the British on the press were imposed.
Evidently, Emergency was invoked by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indra Gandhi on June 25, 1975, when an Emergency was declared on ground of internal disturbance without there being adequate justification for the same. During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi not only suppressed the civil and fundamental rights of the people, attacked the dignity of democracy, but also crushed the freedom of the press. The Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matters Act of 1976 was also implemented on February 11, 1976.
Realising the assertiveness of the Press, late Rajiv Gandhi wanted to keep it under the control of his Government. To further his motive of crushing the Freedom of Press, he passed the Defamation Bill of 1988 in the Lok Sabha. However, due to the opposition faced from the journalists the said bill was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha.
An Amendment was made to the IT Act, 2000 to introduce Section 66A that provided for the Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service. This was however later in the year 2015, held to be unconstitutional by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
In recent times, the hypocrisy of the Congress party is evident from the fact that in their own manifesto they undertake to “Omit Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (that defines the offence of ‘Sedition’) that has been misused and, in any event, has become redundant because of subsequent laws;”
However, the Congress party instead of staying true to its commitment has abused this provision. In as much as innocent representatives of the people of India are charged under Sedition in the States ruled by the Congress Government for recitation of ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ (Navneet Rana case). The Congress party has time and again, abused the Provision of Sedition for its advantage as in the year 2019, an innocent man was charged by the then Bhupesh Baghel-led Government for sedition for raising his voice against the electricity power cut in Chhattisgarh. More recently, the Congress party in order to stifle the voice of media, invoked Sedition upon a news anchor Aman Chopra in Rajasthan. Thus, Congress does not believe in the Citizen’s Right to Freedom of Speech and voice their opinion and does not appreciate the criticism of discontentment coming from their side against the Congress party.