In India, certain laws against the principles of democracy and freedom have started being questioned. One of them is the law of 'sedition' charged for even an innocent comment on social media. In current times, it is an anti-people weapon in the hands of the government. Similarly, contempt of court is a weapon being misused in the hands of the judiciary itself. Likewise, the defamation law is being used by corporates and influential people to keep their own evil deeds out of public view. This is not about special, draconian laws such as the National Security Act (NSA), the Unlawful Activities Prohibition Act (UAPA) and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). On the contrary, this is about a number of 'common' laws that have never been considered anti-public as they were misused relatively less. These laws, which are considered necessary for a secure social life, have seen more abuse than use in recent times. Therefore, there is a serious need for timely change in these and greater transparency and fairness in their implementation or withdrawal altogether.
The widespread misuse of the sedition law in India is not new. Several legal experts, judges and human rights activists have repeatedly pointed this out. Recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also strongly criticized it. The UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet slammed that choking the freedom of expression using sedition law against journalists and activists is a violation of fundamental human rights principles. This outdated law, which was introduced by the British in 1870 to oppress the Indians, is now being applied against anti-CAA and farmers' protestors and their supporters. In the Kedar Nath vs State of Bihar case of 1962, the Supreme Court had clearly drawn the boundaries of this Act. The court ruled that any citizen has the right to criticize the government or its actions as long as it does not incite violence. But today's government accuses even a tweet of inciting violence and thus, sedition.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data , sedition cases under Penal Code 124 (a) increased by 160 per cent during 2016-19. The conviction rate, however, dropped from 33.3 per cent to merely 3.3 per cent. In other words, most of the sedition cases have been baseless, false cases. The British, the authors of the sedition law, realized its anti-people feature and have abandoned it; Britain repealed the sedition law in 2010. In 2018, the Law Commission of India recommended that Section 124 (a) be repealed as there are other laws and penalties for crimes that the government views as sedition. But it has been pointed out that the present NDA government, in particular, is using this law arbitrarily. That is why there is no action against Kapil Mishra, who publicly called for communal violence in Delhi, and Disha Ravi has been charged with sedition for posting on social media in favour of the farmers' protests. It is high time therefore that the sedition law - employed merely as an anti-people tool in the hands of the government - was repealed.
While the judiciary and judges are not beyond scrutiny and criticism, the use of contempt of court in a way that makes even a fair review impossible, is also detrimental to democracy. Journalists are more likely to be victims of such legal abuse as they conduct such analyses. Now, Krishnaprasad, N Ram, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan have sought the repeal of Sections 2 (c) (i) of the Contempt of Court Act on the grounds that they violate Articles 19 and 14 of the Constitution. The court has sent a notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation filed in the Karnataka High Court. No law without transparency is fair or just. It is not the contempt of court but the contempt of the constitution that must be considered a crime. And legislation and judgments against the Constitution must be treated as contempt of the constitution.