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SEDITION LAW: COMPARING LEGAL REGIMES IN INDIA AND AUSTRALIA

By Neha


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Abstract
In July last year (2021), the Supreme Court of India agreed to examine a fresh plea challenging the sedition law mainly on the ground that the 1962 judgement in the Kedar Nath case which helped sedition survive in the Indian Penal Code, is clearly archaic in the present context and was given at a time when doctrines such as ‘chilling effect’ on free speech were unheard of.
This is far from surprising as the debate around the law of sedition in India has resurfaced in the recent times owing to the dramatic rise in cases of indictment of people with the offence of sedition. As per reports, in 2019, 93 cases were filed under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code in sharp contrast to the 35 cases that were filed in 2016. What is particularly concerning is the fact that of these 93 cases, chargesheets were filed in mere 17% of cases with the abysmally low conviction rate of 3.3%.
Moreover, the Chief Justice of India Sh. N.V. Ramana did not mince words while remarking in the month of July last year that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code may have passed its time. The CJI made it very clear that the court is sensitive to the public demand to judicially review the manner in which law enforcement authorities are using the sedition law to control free speech and send journalists, activists and dissenters to jail, cases in point being the sedition cases registered against climate activist Disha Ravi, filmmaker Aisha Sultana and journalists Vinod Dua and Siddiqui Kappan. In May, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said, “it is time to define the limits of sedition”. Such observations substantiate the resolve shown by the Supreme Court in recent months to examine the sedition law and culminating in the issuance of notice to the government in the aforesaid flea challenging the law.
In light of the recent events, one is forced to question as to what it is that makes India continue to hold on to a law which is nothing but a relic of the colonial legacy. The UK, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, the US – they have all either gotten rid of the law altogether or have amended it to reflect the idea of freedom of expression in a modern society. Why does India follow a law that the world has abandoned or is there too much hue and cry over sedition law and that every country has it in some way or the other and needs it? This paper will attempt to find answers to these queries through a comparative analysis of the law of sedition as it exists in India and Australia, two of the important common law jurisdictions and liberal democracies.
Keywords
Sedition, India, Australia, Dissent, Indian Penal Code.

TypeResearch Paper
InformationLex Humanitariae: Journal for a Change, Volume II issue IV, Pages 376-386
ISSN 2582-5216
Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Copyright© 2021- Lex Humanitariae: Journal for a Change