- Section 124(A) of IPC criminalizes the ‘disaffection’ towards the government by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations
- This 1860 draconian colonial law was created to stifle dissent during colonial rule.
- Tilak, Gandhi, Maulana Azad and Annie Besant were convicted under this law
- Today, the law is used to suppress legitimate criticisms of the government
- Journalists, Human rights activists, political dissenters, public intellectuals, and even farmers and tribals are targetted by this law
- The law goes against the inalienable fundamental right to expression enshrined in our Constitution
- The law goes against the very nature of democratic process which relies on active consent and dissent/opposition
- The law goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression
- All major world democracies have either repealed this law or discontinued prosecutions
- The existence of sedition laws in India’s statute books and the resulting criminalization of ‘disaffection’ towards the state is unacceptable in a democratic society.
- Prime Minister
Dr Manmohan Singh
- Home Minister
sushil kumar shinde
I've just signed the following petition addressed to: Prime Minister of India
Repeal the Draconian Sedition Law
Our country inherited many laws developed by the British Raj and although we have changed many of them, some of these laws still govern us. Colonial era sedition law contained in section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, makes creating hatred or contempt for or disaffection towards the government established by Law in India, an act of sedition punishable with imprisonment for life, whether such disaffection, hatred or contempt is created by words spoken or written or by signs or visible representation. This section forms part of chapter VI of the Indian penal Code that deals with “offences against the State”, a passage that deals with serious offences including waging war against the State.
Section 124 A was introduced by the British Government in 1870 when the colonial government felt that such a draconian law was needed to suppress the freedom struggle. Some of the most famous sedition trails of 19th and early 20th centuries were those of Indian nationalist leaders including Tilak, Gandhi and Maulana Azad. All the repressive laws used by the British against the freedom struggle have been retained in Independent India, despite constitutional provisions mandating scrutiny.
Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. The law of sedition raises questions about free speech and the right to political commentary and expression. Artists and writers are threatened and harassed by anti-sedition laws, because of the nature of their work. This law is also being used to suppress dissentions and demands of the poor and the marginalized.
In nations that protect speech, making an anti-government speech or writing about the government is not considered sedition, unless the author takes the additional step of inciting people to violence. Lobbying for a legal change of government through election or petition is also protected, and citizens are also usually free to protest or speak out about flaws within their governments. Dissent and Opposition is an inherent part of any system if it is truly democratic.
In view of the above, a writer must not be imprisoned for writing a book which satirically ridicules the president/government, or an artist must not face consequences for producing a piece of political art, or social activists must not be thrown in prison for standing up for those who do not have the ability to stand up for themselves. However, recent events ( Koodankulam, Aseem Trivedi, Binayak Sen) prove that the opposite is true in our country.
Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was fortunate that his arbitrary arrest under sedition charges evoked condemnation from the Mumbai High Court, the media and civil society, but who will prevent the arbitrary use of similar charges against poor fishermen and villagers participating in a political protest in Koondankulam ? This is the first time, in the history of this country, that 8,000 cases of sedition and waging a war against the nation have been registered, at a single police station. What is unbelievable is that 4 boys aged between 15 and 16 have been slapped with sedition charges . Are we living in a free country ?
Today, there is rampant corruption and abuse of power and no justice and peace, not because of the few who perpetrate them, but because of the silence of the many. Therefore, let us not imprison through draconian anti-sedition laws our few brave hearts who have the courage to speak the truth – for change, that will benefit us all.
Using sedition law to silence peaceful criticism is the hallmark of an oppressive government.
I appeal the Indian parliament should immediately repeal this Colonial Era Sedition Law.
Kamayani Bali-Mahabal started this petition with a single signature, and now has 250 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.