The sedition law was first introduced by the British imperialists in the year 1870 to suppress dissent against their rule. This law was in keeping with the tyrannical reign of British Imperialism. But right after independence, in the year 1948, the word ‘sedition’ was dropped from the Constitution and an Article 19 (1)(a) introduced to grant freedom of speech and expression to the people. But the Indian national bourgeoisie who assumed state power from the British imperialists through compromise could hardly afford providing such freedom to the countrymen as capitalist rule in India was going to be less oppressive and despotic and hence people’s voice of protest was destined to be raised. So, section 124A which stipulated sedition provisions continued to stay in Indian Panel Code, 1860. It has been a fairly well settled principle in jurisprudence, as outlined by a catena of judgments by the Supreme Court and high courts, that interpretations of laws that seek to place restrictions on fundamental rights and civil liberties must be expansive.
Even with the Landmark Kedar Nath Singh vs State Of Bihar 1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769, where a five Judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court did uphold the constitutional validity of Section 124A but criticized as well as restrained the government of arbitrarily restricting the freedom of speech. But, during Indira Gandhi’s regime, the Sedition law was first amended in 1973, during the tenure of Indira Gandhi when the new amended Code of Criminal Procedure was made cognizable (arrest without warrant). Since then, the bourgeois governments, both of the Congress and the BJP, have been recklessly misusing sedition law to stifle voice of opposition. Just a few years back, as many as 9, 000 agitators legitimately voicing protest against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu were booked under sedition law for “waging war against the Government of India”. During the ongoing BJP rule, according to the National Crimes Record Bureau, 330 sedition cases were registered between 2014 to 2019 are 330, out of which only 3.3% were convicted.
But now, the Law Commission of India, in its 279th report that has been submitted to Union Law and Justice minister, has not just batted for keeping the draconian sedition law on the statute book but also argued stridently for making the colonial-era legislation more stringent. The 22nd Law Commission of India headed by former Chief Justice of Karnataka high court Ritu Raj Awasthi recently has suggested that wordings of Section 124A should be changed from “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.” to: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, with a tendency to incite violence or cause public disorder shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
If this amendment is incorporated, sedition can be slapped even in the absence of “proof of actual violence or imminent threat to violence”, it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine the floodgates of persecution and prosecution that would be opened against those merely critical of the government even on social media. Thus, it will be more stringent than what was in British regime. This is only but natural in a fascist autocratic rule in the prevailing decadent moribund capitalist system which, haunted by the fear-complex of anti-capitalist socialist revolution, is arraying its entire arsenal to thwart outbreak of the revolutionary movement as a culmination of intensification of the class and mass struggles under correct revolutionary leadership. Proposed stringency of Sedition law is a part of that.