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SEDITION LAW – THE COMPLEXITY AS WELL AS THE URGENCY REGARDING SECTION 124A OF IPC

Author: Prashant Prasad, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from University Law College, Vinoba Bhave University, Hazaribagh


Introduction

Sedition Law is a sacrosanct law that is prevailing in society. The law of sedition was enacted by the British government in 1860 to deal with any harsh criticisms of the colonial government and prevent any offenses against the colonial state. Sedition Law defines sedition as an offense when a person by his words or his act incites or attempts to incite hatred or contempt against the persisting government established by law in India is what sedition means.


Present scenario of sedition in India

In India, between 2014 and 2021 there is a total of 475 sedition cases registered and according to NCRB data Assam accounts for the largest number of sedition cases 69 cases of which is (14.52%) were registered from Assam. After Assam, the maximum number of cases was registered from Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Jammu, and Kashmir. This data regarding the sedition cases show us that the present scenario regarding sedition is being raised day by day and a country like India accounts for substantial amounts of cases of sedition.


Importance of Sedition Law

Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution prescribes reasonable restrictions that can be imposed on the right to freedom of speech in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India. The sedition law makes sure the security of the state, public order, or incitement to an offense. Sedition law helps the elected government from being in its position, as there are many cases where the incitement can be against the order of the government which can overthrow their current position through violence. Furthermore, sedition law creates fear among the anti-national groups from pursuing any task which is against the interest of the nation. Sedition law helps in maintaining public order. Last but not least sedition law helps in maintaining the balance between freedoms of expression with the collective national interest. Along with these things, there are many other ways in which sedition law helps in maintaining the integrity of the nation.


VinodDua v. Union of India, 2021- Case Analysis

Background of the case

Journalism and mass media is the most vital part of the nation, it is the sole reliability from which people can acquaint themselves with the various facts and conditions that are persisting and taking place in and around the nation. During the time of Covid-19, the person was somehow more reliable and was dependent on the media for the facts that were used to be updated every second.


This case revolves around the senior journalist named Mr. VinodDua who commented something about effective governance concerning the Prime Minister. The case inculcated various concept and various issues was also raised regarding the freedom of speech and expression, media and journalism, and their rights to evoke the question if the government machinery is not working well. Lastly, one major point which was taken into consideration was if the incitement does not amount to violence, it is still being responsible and is to be charged under sedition.


Facts of the case

There was a YouTube channel named HW News Network owned and operated by Mr. VinodDua. On 30th March 2020 vinoddua in one of the episodes of “The VinodDua Show” has spoken about the lockdown and the critical health of the people during the period of Covid-19. His YouTube video two places one at 5 minutes and 9 seconds and the second at 5 minutes and 45 seconds raised certain issues regarding the present government. In his show, he criticized the present government for failing to tackle the issue which was caused during the covid-19 period particularly vinoddua criticized the lack of medical infrastructure, and lifesaving instruments along with the issue of food and essential items the people were deprived of during that time. He further criticized the government regarding the inhuman tackling of the migrant laborers who were returning to their hometowns and the brutality of the police against the migrant laborers. It was also alleged that the vinoddua criticized the present Prime Minister by the word “PradhanSevak” who is collecting the votes in the name of terror attacks on India at Pathankot, Pulwama, and surgical strikes by India for political gain. It was said that vinoddua’s statement regarding the Prime Minister is inciting violence among the citizens and is disturbing the tranquility of people. Although vinoddua took his stand saying that the content in the video is a pure and simple critical analysis of the functioning of the government.


An F.I.R. has been registered against the journalist vinoddua under sections 124-A, 268, 501, and 505 of the Indian Penal Code. Additionally, the petitioner was sent a notice for an appearance at a police station in Kumarsain, Himachal Prades under section 160 of Cr.P.C.


Being aggrieved by such action vinoddua moved to the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Indian constitution for the quashing of F.I.R. which was against him.


Issues involved in the case

  • Whether the petitioner has committed sedition and should be charged under section 124-A of IPC.

  • Whether comments of vinoddua were conducting public mischief under section 505 of IPC?

  • Do the comments of vinoddua was defamatory according to section 501 of IPC?

  • Is the petitioner guilty of a public nuisance or an illegal omission that caused injury under 268 of IPC?


Arguments on behalf of the petitioner

  • The first and foremost argument advanced by the petitioner was that the content of the video is analyzed properly and that every piece of information present in the video is regarding the functioning of the government.

  • They argued that the most vital ingredient for committing the offense of sedition under section 124-A of IPC is doing a certain act that would bring hatred against the established government which would result in inciting violence or public disorder. But in this case, nothing is being done that incited violence against the existing government.

  • Further, it was argued that in F.I.R. it was alleged that the petitioner used the term Prime Minister regarding he used terror attack for garnering votes. However, it was contended by the petitioner that no such things were alleged in the contents of the video.

  • The petitioner argued that being a journalist he must bring critical appraisal of the government and the content of the video was just a critical analysis and nothing more than that and by order, liberty was given to the media to discuss the pandemic.

  • It was contended that the act of the petitioner was covered under explanations 2 and 3 of Section 124-A, and exceptions to section 505 were also within the Right to Freedom of Expression guaranteed Under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

  • It was further said that ingredients for committing an offense under sections 501 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code were also not established. Therefore initiation of criminal proceedings against the journalist vinoddua is a violation of his Fundamental Rights and hence the current petition must be quashed.


Arguments on behalf of the respondents

  • The respondent vehemently opposed the contentions made by the petitioner; firstly the respondent raised the issue regarding the maintainability of the writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. According to the respondents, the petitioner could have taken the help of remedies available under different codes for quashing F.I.R rather than coming directly to the Supreme Court of India for quashing F.I.R.

  • They further added that at the present stage of the suit, things have to presume as true and investigation must be allowed so that the facts relating to the case must come to light. Whether the statements that were made were unintended or innocent is a part of the investigation at the present stage.

  • The respondent further tries to establish that the journalist commented on the honorable Prime Minister regarding the garnering of votes by the means of death and terror attacks, which amounts to inciting violence among the general public and is going to disturb the public tranquility.

  • It was further argued by the petitioner that the entire matter will also come under section 188 and section 511 of the Indian Penal Code as the statement made by the petitioner was in the nature for inciting the general public towards the violence and also the statement disobeys the concerned authorities as the lockdown was persisting.

  • The respondents further argued that in case of any pandemic spreading of any false information do tend to create panic, and therefore section 52 and 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 must be taken into consideration.


Judgment

After the due deliberation and discussion of the facts and circumstances of the case submitted by both parties and upon examination of the concerned Judicial precedents. The Supreme Court of India observed that the maintainability of the writ petition in this particular case in the light of Article 32 is maintainable. The court has taken into consideration the fact regarding the freedom of expression and independence of media the court found that intervention of the court is necessary to protect the rights of the petitioner as a citizen and as a journalist.


The court considered the facts of the case and in light of Article 32 while exercising his jurisdiction quashed the F.I.R. The court observed that in the quashing of F.I.R., the individual should go to the Higher Court first, but in cases where there is a glaring deprivation of liberty, one can take the help of Article 32 and can directly move to the Apex Court for seeking a remedy. The Court while evaluating the material facts of the case found that the statement by the petitioner that the Prime Minister uses death threats and terror attacks to garner votes was not made in the video. Although the court found that the petitioner made the comments regarding the Balakot and Pulwama that these events were used to garner votes.


Finally, the court quashed the F.I.R. saying that a citizen does have a right to criticize or comment upon the measures undertaken by the government and its functionaries, as long as it does not amount to the incitement of violence among the general public. The court observed that the comments made by the journalist were within his right as he was a journalist and he does have a reasonable right to criticize the functioning of the government.


Conclusion

The case of VinodDua v. Union of India is considered a landmark case regarding the sedition law. The judgment upholds the freedom of speech and the independence of media. The court evaluated each fact in the video of vinoddua and finally found that the comments made by him are within the scope of his rights. The court also observed in the case that for sedition to be caused the most essential thing is the incitement of violence and the actual violence done but in this case, no such violence could be observed and hence the petitioner must not be charged under the sedition law.


From the above analysis, we can conclude the fact that the issue of sedition is very much vital as there is a very thin line difference between innocent speech and speech that evokes incitement among the people towards violence. In recent time there has been a growing debate concerning the need to reform the sedition law, some countries argued that they are outdated and no longer serves legitimately purposed. But in India sedition is a legitimate law and cases regarding the same are being there in every part of the country.


Bibliography

  • https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/sedition-law/

  • https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/sedition-law-7#:~:text=It%20defines%20sedition%20as%20an,established%20by%20law%20in%20India%22.

  • Indian Penal Code, 1860, Act no. 45 of 1860

  • Disaster Management Act, 2005, Act no. 53 of 2005

  • https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/sedition-law-explained-origin-history-legal-challenge-supreme-court-7911041/

  • https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-indias-colonial-sedition-law-origins-govt-abuse-courts-take-on-it/article65375097.ece

  • https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/tag/sedition/

  • https://indiankanoon.org/doc/50969306/

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