The Supreme Court will decide if Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, that criminalises sedition, is unconstitutional.
Two journalists, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla have been charged with sedition for posts and cartoons published on social media platforms. They have filed a writ petition challenging the validity of Section 124A IPC that criminalises and provides punishment for sedition.
Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha (from Manipur) has had three FIRs filed under Section 124A against him for comments and posts made on Facebook. The comments and posts criticised the Government of Manipur for its management of a crisis at the Manipur University; called the Chief Minister of Manipur an ‘agent of the Prime Minister’; and criticised the comments made by politicians and their family members against members of the Schedule Tribe Community. Kanhaiya Lal Shukla (From Chattisgarh) posted cartoons on Facebook that depicted fake encounters by the police.
The petitioners contend that Section 124A infringes upon an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, 1950. They state that Section 124A does not impose a reasonable restriction. Therefore, it does not fall under the restrictions to the freedom of speech and expression allowed under Article 19(2).
Further, the petition highlights that the precedent set in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar is obsolete. This is because the social circumstances in 1962 may have required reasonable restriction of the nature discussed in Section 124A. However, since then, alternative laws concerning safety, security and public order have been passed, making Section 124A redundant.
The petitioners also noted that the vagueness of the provision makes for arbitrary application and misuse. This is detrimental to freedoms guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
1. Whether Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code violates the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.