28 July 2021 4:15 AM GMT
A farmers' union has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (which defines and penalises Sedition). The Petition has been moved by Haryana Progressive Farmers Union through Advocate Pardeep Kumar Rapria averring that the abuse of the law of sedition continues unchecked with cases being filed to...
A farmers' union has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (which defines and penalises Sedition).
The Petition has been moved by Haryana Progressive Farmers Union through Advocate Pardeep Kumar Rapria averring that the abuse of the law of sedition continues unchecked with cases being filed to silence critics thereby creating a chilling effect on the right to protest.
The plea states that the offence of sedition is vague and it fails to define the criminal offence with sufficient definiteness.
The petition has been moved after a case of sedition was registered against 100 farmers for protesting against the Speaker of the Haryana Legislative Assembly.
However, observing that "commission of the offence of sedition under Section 124-A IPC in the case is doubtful" the Sessions Court, Sirsa, recently granted bail to five farmers who were charged with Sedition for allegedly attacking the convoy of Vidhan Sabha Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa earlier this month.
The plea further submits that the Government was using terrorising tactics against farmers, merely because the farmers have been showing black flags to BJP leaders.
The plea avers that there are certain guiding principles that have been laid down by the apex court to determine what falls within the ambit of sedition, however, there is no specific definition of sedition capable of guiding the conduct of the ordinary citizen or the law enforcement authorities.
"The definition of sedition available to law enforcement agencies and the police is the one available on the statute books, which is the literal interpretation that was read down by this Hon'ble Court in Kedar Nath's case. As the guiding principles enunciated by Kedar Nath are unknown to most citizens and police, the law of sedition has come to be heavily abused with cases being filed against citizens for exercising their freedom of speech and expression," submits the plea.
Importantly, the plea submits that by the time the courts step in to apply the interpretation accorded in Kedarnath Singh to the facts of the cases, citizens already suffer the deprivation of their liberty.
Further, urging the Court to strike down Section 124-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 for infringing Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution, the plea states thus:
"A person hearing a speech may begin to hate the Government, or feel disloyal towards it, or may hold it in contempt, but is not bound to disturb the public order and may refrain from doing any overact. Whether a speech will cause disorder or not depends not only upon its content but also upon the nature of the listener, his opportunities, and the state of the country at the time."
Also, the plea stresses that Section 124A IPC doesn't have any proximate relationship with the public order as there is no proximate connection between the instigation and public order.
Significantly, CJI NV Ramana has also expressed alarm at the rampant misuse of the provision and expressed reservation at continuing its use.
Is It Still Necessary To Continue Sedition Law, Which Was Used By British To Suppress Our Freedom Movement, Even After 75 Yrs Of Independence: CJI Ramana To Centre
The remarks were made while hearing a petition moved by Army veteran Major-General SG Vombatkere (Retired) challenging the constitutionality of the offence of sedition under Section 124A of IPC for being 'vague' and creating a 'chilling effect on free speech'.
A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit is also hearing a plea, as well as Intervention Applications, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 12 4A of the IPC.
On 30 April, the Court had issued notice in the plea filed by two journalists working in the States of Manipur and Chhattisgarh.
On 12 July, the Court had sought the response of the AG in the case, and had adjourned the matter to July 27. Two weeks have been granted to the Respondents to file their responses.
Former Union Minister Arun Shourie has also moved the Top Court stating that the Doctrine of Presumption of Constitutionality applied in the Kedar Nath judgment is no longer relevant since the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India and thus, the matter requires re-consideration.
Meanwhile, People's Union for Civil Liberties and former Union Minister Arun Shourie have also challenged Section 124-A.
Another petition has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the offence of sedition as codified in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. This is the fifth such petition.
The petition has been filed by two women journalists, Patricia Mukhim and Anuradha Bhasin, claiming that the use of sedition offence to intimidate, silence and punish journalists, has continued unrestrained and the lived experience of the last six decades leads to an irresistible conclusion that unless the impugned provision is deleted from the IPC, it will continue to "haunt and hinder" the full realization of the right to free speech and the freedom of the press.