An autobiography of Section 124- A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

I am Section 124-A of IPC which deals with charges of ‘sedition’. I am a weapon of those in power, to negate the ‘right to dissent’. I have an interesting colonial legacy. In colonial India, I was ‘Prince’ of law. I have always suppressed the liberty of citizens. From the starting of IPC, I was part of it which was drafted by Thomas Macaulay. But in 1860 I was dropped from law when IPC was enacted. But a decade later, my importance was understood by my colonial masters to suppress revolutionary Indian nationalist and liberal thoughts.

I was famously used in the trials of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and in the prosecution of Mahatma Gandhi in 1922 by my colonial masters. Understanding me is very complex. I can’t be defined. In short, I assert, government should always be ‘loved, not hated’ (Noorani, A.G). I say, ‘you can’t raise your voice against the government and so I disown the right of dissent’. Although ‘they’ (architects of the constitution of the modern India), tried to question my power but aah! My dear friend Reasonable restrictions in the ‘Right to freedom of speech and expression’, Article 19(2), resisted me. But ‘they’ never stopped the conspiracy to get rid of me. First they tried with the cases of Brij Bhushan v.State of Delhi and Romesh Thapar v. Union of India- which pointed towards my incompatibility towards the constitution. Later, the than Prime Minister of Independent India, Nehru, said “Now so far as I am concerned [Section 124-A] is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons, if you like, in any body of laws that we might pass,” He later said in parliament, “The sooner we get rid of it the better.” I, Section 124- A got hurt deeply with the large conspiracy of these educated intellectuals and the champions of the ‘progressive thinkers’. But, as I had said earlier, I was a ‘ Prince’ of law, and thus even after 65 years, I still manage to remain in IPC and continue to be the most effective weapon to suppress the dissent. In the 1962 case of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, two High Courts found me unconstitutional but thanks to the Supreme Court who upheld me on the flawed premise of interest of public order.

Although I suffered through a lot of pain in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, which was about my very close friend , Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. The devils court ruled that any speech can’t be prosecuted unless it has proximate connection with any incitement to disrupt public order. But today, I am meant to assist in crushing all opposition to the ruling dispensation. I have managed to stop Aseem Trivedi, The famous cartoonist.

I am successful in trapping JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. I can make anyone ‘anti-national’ in no time. I am a colonial legacy and thus I am against the idea of legitimate, liberal democratic state. And dare you call me “anti-India”, my power lies with the ruling government to put cap on your fundamental Right to freedom of speech and Expression.

(Few sentences have been taken from the Hindu editorial dated Feb, 16)

[Written by Aatif Iqbal , He is Master’s student of Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi]