A lawyer from Karnataka has filed a sedition case against actor turned politician Ramya for making a remark at SAARC conference that “Pakistan is not hell. People there are just like us. They treated us very well”. She has refused to apologise for her statement. We at The Logical Indian feel that there is nothing wrong with the statement she has made and almost all the politicians including our Prime Minister Narendra Modi have given statement in similar lines.
This case has again brought the attention back to sedition. Sedition by meaning is defined as conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch and sedition in India is defined in the Indian Penal Code section 124A. Most of the countries have laws that criminalize sedition, however, the progressive democracies have always prioritized freedom of speech, expression and freedom of religion over the sedition and in the countries like United States (most of the provisions of the law of sedition have been struck down) and European countries, primacy of freedom of speech and express is over the law of sedition and hence many cases of sedition filed loses out in the court of law to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
When the process becomes the punishment
1. Sedition in India is cognizable offense i.e., the person can be arrested without a warrant.
2. The penalty can range from a fine to three-year of imprisonment or life imprisonment.
3. The penalties imposed starts after the judgement pronounces the person guilty of sedition. Until the judgement on the case of sedition has come out, the person remains charged with sedition.
4. A person charged with sedition must live without their passport and is barred from government jobs.
5. In most cases, the charges have never been proven, but the process itself becomes the punishment.
When Tilak & Gandhi were charged with sedition
The British government claimed that Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s speeches on the killing of Afzal Khan by Shivaji, had prompted the murder of two British officers in Pune. Tilak was charged with sedition. He was released a year later, following German economist and jurist, Max Weber’s intervention. Tilak himself went on to face the same charge again, twice, and ended up spending six years in prison for an editorial published in his newspaper, Keasari.
In 1922, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was charged for his articles in Young India magazine. Gandhi ji famously said, “Section 124A under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
Origins of sedition
Sedition as part of the Indian Penal Code, was introduced by the British and was used by the British to suppress the citizens, their freedoms and their fight for freedom. The IPC and most importantly sedition is an inheritance from the British empire. Nehru ji famously said, with respect to sedition “Now so far as I am concerned that particular section is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons, if you like, in any body of laws that we might pass. The sooner we get rid of it the better,”
The tough law of sedition which exists in India is matched only by Saudi Arabia & Iran and other nations which have a poor human rights record. It is on this front it is better that India does away with sedition law sooner than later.