PIL Dismissed Challenging The Validity of Sedition

The Apex Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea challenging the colonial law of Sedition provided under S. 124-A of the Indian Penal Code. A group of advocates was heard by a 3 judge bench presided by Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde. The provision reads as follows:

S. 124A. Sedition.- 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 attempts 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, or with fine. 

The petitioners in their plea contended that this draconian law of the British era was put to unlawful and indiscriminate use in recent years especially against media, students, and women. They further contended that continuance of this provision without adequate safeguards as provided under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) is unreasonable and unwarranted. Thus, praying that the said provision needs to be re-examined with the changing circumstances in accordance with the tests of proportionality, necessity and arbitrariness and struck down as it stands in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined under Article 19 (1) (a) which states all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression and Article 21 – Protection of Life and Personal Liberty, of the Constitution.

The plea also alternatively sought directions to the Government to instruct their respective Heads of Police and D.G.Ps to ensure that the laws declared by the Hon’ble Court in Kedar Nath and Balwant Singh cases are strictly followed.In the Balwant Singh case (1995) the court ruled that merely shouting slogans, “Khalistan Zindabad”, does not amount to sedition. In the Kedar Nath case (1962) the Court observed that penalization of sedition is a constitutionally valid restriction on the right to freedom of expression only when the words are intended to disturb public peace by violence.

Nevertheless, in the present case, it dismissed the plea of the advocates following the precedent laid down in Kusum Ingots case which states that a statute cannot be challenged without cause of action. Thus, the plea was set aside by the Court for want of a concrete case.

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