Scrap sedition law

The present NDA government’s approach towards sedition law has been tentative and ambiguous and fails to inspire any confidence. Its recent submission before the Supreme Court that ‘some changes’ were being contemplated in the colonial-era law doesn’t meet public expectations. Nothing short of scrapping the draconian law would do. Apart from making some vague statements about the proposed changes in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Centre has not put any details in the public domain for debate. In May this year, the apex court put on hold trial in all sedition cases pending before courts across the country until the government completes its promised exercise to re-examine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124 A of the IPC, dealing with the offence of sedition. It had also directed that all those in jail on sedition charges could approach the court for bail.
In recent times, there have been several instances of arbitrary and unjustified use of draconian provisions on ordinary citizens. As far back as in 1962, the Supreme Court had ruled that sedition charges could not be invoked against a citizen for criticism of government actions as it would be in conformity with freedom of speech and expression. But successive administrations conveniently ignored these riders and started wielding the provision as a speech-muzzling tool. It is incongruous for a liberal and free democratic country to have a sedition law that fights its own citizens. In fact, criticism of the government of the day is an essence of democracy and should not be viewed as antinational activity. The misuse of the sedition law has destroyed many lives. Formulated during the British rule to suppress the freedom struggle, it is now being widely misused against dissenters.