From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 19
Mains level : Paper 2- Misuse of sedition law
On May 11, the Supreme Court directed the Union government and the states to refrain from using the law of sedition and keep all previous cases under 124A in abeyance till the matter is reconsidered in a comprehensive way.
Data on Section 124A and UAPA about pendency and conviction rates
- The data on draconian laws like 124A or UAPA exposes their untenability.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, a total of 156 cases of sedition were pending in 2017.
- In that year, only 27 cases could be disposed of at the police level by withdrawing the case or submitting a chargesheet.
- In courts, out of the 58 cases on trial, only one conviction could be obtained and the pendency rate for the cases of sedition was close to 90 per cent.
- The number of cases increased in 2020, the year for which the latest NCRB data is available, but with the same results.
- Of the total 230 cases registered, only 23 were chargesheeted.
- Pendency in court reached close to 95 per cent for the sedition cases in 2020.
- The abysmally low rate of conviction and disposal of these cases make it clear that these charges are slapped with very flimsy or no evidence to intimidate or harass those who question the government’s fiat.
- The picture is no different for the UAPA.
- Cases under it have increased by about 75 per cent between 2017-2020.
- A total of 4,827 UAPA cases were pending in 2020 —of them, only 398 could be chargesheeted in that year.
- The pendency rate in court remained 95 per cent, indicating harassment and violation of the right to life and liberty for a great number of people who are suffering because of the diabolical prison conditions in India.
Recommendations and measures
- A consultation paper on sedition circulated by the Law Commission of India on August 30, 2018, found many issues that need addressing around the working of Section 124A.
- Most recently, on May 11, the Supreme Court directed the Union government and the states to refrain from using the law of sedition.
Dissent, criticism and differences of opinion are vital for the functioning of any democracy. The witch-hunting of those who question the government of the day reminds us of medieval times and totalitarian rulers. It is time we usher in an era of free speech. For that, the sedition law must go.