In a historic decision, the Supreme Court put a stay on the 152-year-old sedition law under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The holiday will be in force till the Union government reconsiders the provision. In an interim order, the court urged the Centre and the state governments to refrain from registering any FIRs under the said provision until the Centre re-examines the British-era law.
The apex court passed the order after observing the Union government’s stand of “re-consideration and re-examination”. This means the government has agreed with the prima facie view expressed by the court. The rigors of 124A IPC aren’t in tune with the current social milieu. It was intended for when the country was under colonial rule. Therefore, the court ordered that the Union of India reconsider the provision. The sedition law is a controversial law that civil liberties activists, human rights lawyers, and journalists have questioned.
People have argued that India’s sedition law is long past its expiry date.
The sedition law became obsolete in the UK in the 1960s and was finally repealed in 2009. Sedition by an alien (resident but not a national of the country) is still an offense.
Some sedition laws have been repealed in the USA or made a dead letter. The courts provide comprehensive protection to free speech.
Sections 2381 to 2385 of the US Code deal with treason, sedition, and subversive activities advocating the overthrow of the government. However, the law is rarely enforced to uphold the freedom of speech.
Last year, Singapore, which like India, inherited English colonial law, repealed its sedition law 83 years after it was first introduced to curb local opposition to British colonial rule.
The Home Ministry said that critical aspects of the Sedition Act have not been relevant in modern Singapore for a long time, and the law was hardly used for prosecutions. It said that several new rules could sufficiently address issues under the ambit of the sedition law.
Section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act, 2010 abolished the common law offenses of sedition. With effect from March 28, 2011.
In 2007, sedition was declared unconstitutional in Indonesia, similar to the laws of its Dutch colonizers.
The Republic of Korea abolished sedition laws during democratic and legal reforms in 1988.