What is section 124A of Indian Penal Code? Do you think the provisions are still relevant in present era of free speech? Discuss.

As per section 124A of Indian Penal Code 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 by imprisonment or fine.
Provisions were enacted with intention to maintain law and order, safeguard British rule  and maintain integrity of nation during Colonial times but not relevant in current time because:
A)It has a chilling effect on free speech guaranteed by Article 19(1) of Indian Constitution which provides for freedom of speech. Art 19(2) already places reasonable restriction on freedom of speech, this provision overreaches it.
B)This provision provides excessive powers in the hands of police, as it determines whether the speech or action caused public violence.
C)In Romesh Thapar vs Union of India, SC held that sedition law is incompatible with the provisions of constitution.
D) Due to lack of clarification in context of Social media, these laws are applied without any thought on mere criticism of government.
E)Sedition laws have historically existed in the legislations of various countries including Australia, the UK and the US which have amended their sedition laws.
In today’s time, when media for expression of free speech has expanded it is necessary to re-examine the law and resolve grey issue in actual law and implementation.

Question for UPSC Mains:
What is section 124A of Indian Penal Code? Do you think the provisions are still relevant in present era of free speech? Discuss. TOI | GKToday

Published: October 4, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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