Law Commission backs sedition law, suggests increased imprisonment
The commission also said that the said section is not violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and is a reasonable restriction under article 19(2) of the Constitution.
The Law Commission of India has recommended the retention of colonial law on sedition emphasising that the said provision serves to be a traditional penal mechanism to safeguard India’s unity and integrity and seeks to prevent the violent, illegal, and unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government established by law.
“Although there are Central and State laws to deal with terror cases Section 124A of IPC serves to be the traditional penal mechanism to safeguard India’s unity and integrity. Prompt and effective suppression of disintegrating tendencies is in the immediate interest of the nation. The ever-proliferating role of social media in propagating radicalisation against India and bringing the Government into hatred, many a time at the initiation and facilitation by adversarial foreign powers, all the more requires such a provision to be present in the statute.
Section 124A of IPC has its utility in combating anti-national and secessionist elements as it seeks to protect the elected government from attempts to overthrow it through violent and illegal means. The continued existence of the government established by law is an essential condition for the security and stability of the State. In this context, it becomes imperative to retain Section 124A and ensure that all such subversive activities are nipped in their incipiency,” Law Commission headed by Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi in the 279th report said.
Apart from laying emphasis on the fact that retaining the provisions of sedition would safeguard the unity & integrity of India, the commission also said that the said section is not violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and is a reasonable restriction under article 19(2) of the Constitution.
“Section l24A of IPC seeks to prevent the violent, illegal, and unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government established by law. Hence, the existence of the former does not by implication cover all elements of the offence envisaged under Section 124A of IPC. In the absence of a provision like Section 124A of IPC, any expression that incites violence against the Government would invariably be tried under the special laws and counter-terror legislations, which contain much more stringent provisions to deal with the accused, “ the report said.
Favouring the amendment of the law to bring about more clarity in the interpretation, understanding, and usage of the provision, the commission has suggested enhancing imprisonment from three to seven years.
Referring to the 42nd report of the Law Commission according to which the punishment for sedition was “odd”, the report said, “It could be either imprisonment for life or imprisonment up to three years only, but nothing in between, with the minimum punishment being only fine. A comparison of the sentences as provided for the offences in Chapter VI of the IPC suggests that there is a glaring disparity in the punishment prescribed for Section 124A. It is, therefore, suggested that the provision be revised to bring it in consonance with the scheme of punishment provided for other offences under Chapter VI. This would allow the Courts greater room to award punishment for a case of sedition in accordance with the scale and gravity of the act committed.”
Apart from recommending the removal of an oddity, the Commission has also recommended for incorporation of SCs ruling in the Kedar Nath ruling that had underlined the presence of a pernicious tendency to incite violence as a precondition to invoke the sedition clause.