A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre on the need of “colonial” era sedition law asking if it is still required after 75 years of independence.
The apex court’s strong message came after a fresh plea by a former army officer challenging the Constitutional validity of the sedition law on the ground that it causes “chilling effect" on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right.
The Section 124-A, which deals with the offence of sedition, of the Indian Penal Code states: “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 which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ramana, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy directed the petitioner to serve a copy of the plea to Attorney General K K Venugopal.
Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Sudan, Senegal and Turkey are among the few countries that deals with sedition as a criminal act.
Here’s a look at how the Sedition Law works in Other Countries
1. United States of America
The Section 2385 of the US Code deals with treason, sedition and subversive activities or advocating overthrow of government. However, the law is rarely enforced to uphold the freedom of speech. The American sedition law was promulgated 218 years ago but many parts struck it down over two centuries.
Albeit, sedition laws exist in Canada and deal with a hate crime, the law has not been invoked after the 20th century.
3. United Kingdom
Section 73 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 abolishes sedition and seditious libel. It was enforced on January 12, 2010. Sedition by an alien, resident but not a national of the country, however, is an offence.
Germany’s sedition law is largely because of post-Nazi sensitivities. Volksverhetzung, or “incitement of the people", is a legal concept in Germany. The word loosely translates to ‘sedition’.
Under Articles 111-113 of the Dutch Penal Code, it is a crime to insult the King, the Heir Apparent and their spouse in the Netherlands.
The Malaysian Sedition Act 1948 comprises not only laws on sedition against any ruler, ruling government, administration of justice and rights and privileges under the Federal Constitution; but also takes within its purview, prohibitions on racial hate-speech.
Chapter 9 of the Norwegian General Civil Penal Code makes defaming the King/Regent of Norway, a crime. Section 5 of the constitution states: “The King’s person is sacred; he cannot be censured or accused. The responsibility rests with his Council.”
8. New Zealand
The act of ‘sedition’ ceased to be a crime following the introduction of The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Bill in 2007 that came into effect from January 1, 2008.
Sedition is declared as “unconstitutional" in Indonesia, similar to the laws of its Dutch colonisers.
10. South Korea
The Republic of Korea abolished sedition laws during democratic and legal reforms in the year 1988.