ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sedition and Colonial Legalism

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The Law Commission of India has released the 279th report arguing in favour of continued penalisation of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The commission has opined that the provision can only be invoked when a tendency to incite violence or cause a breach of public peace is found, reiterating a 1962 Supreme Court decision. Being contingent on unbridled executive discretion, such a nebulous standard remains vulnerable to abuse and does little to change the status quo. The Law Commission’s report has also overlooked the fact that vagueness and over-breadth in definition can be one of the grounds for declaring a law as unconstitutional. Another significant perspective illuminated is that the colonial legacy of sedition cannot be a reason for its repeal. The commission has rather redundantly declared that the entire legal framework in India marks a colonial continuity, and thus, the classification of sedition as a colonial vestige does not merit further critical intervention.

The commission’s observations come at a time when the Supreme Court has already passed an order directing state authorities to refrain from filing of first information reports under Section 124A and to also keep pending trials in abeyance. In the apex court’s prima facie view, the IPC provision on sedition was a relic of the colonial era, “not in tune with the current social milieu.” Notably, the Law Commission also concedes that sedition was a weapon of choice for a foreign regime to shackle popular participation in anti-colonial insurrections. Yet, the commission strikes a discordant note by proposing the retention of Section 124A in the IPC. It is alarming that such a conclusion was reached despite drawing a contrast between the colonial state’s authoritarian supremacy and the representative nature of Indian democracy.

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Updated On : 19th Jun, 2023
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