In Brief: Sedition, Defamation, AFSPA laws: Should repeal or amend
Headline : Sedition, Defamation, AFSPA laws that Congress wants to repeal or amend
- A national party has released its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in which it promised to repeal or amend laws related to Sedition, Defamation and AFSPA, if they come to the power.
General information about the laws related to Sedition, Defamation and AFSPA
The Sedition law
- Section 124A in the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as follows-
- “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 for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
- According to this section of IPC, the Sedition is a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
- It was first introduced in 1870 by the Britishers to target nationalist leaders and it was used on leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, etc.
The Defamation law
- In India, defamation is both a civil and a criminal offence.
- As a civil offence, defamation in India is not regulated by any legislation rather it is only guided by a law made by the judges.
- As a criminal offence, it is defined by Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code as follows-
- “Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.”
- As a criminal offence, it is bailable and non-cognisable.
- It is punishable with imprisonment up to two years, or with fine, or with both.
- Unlike the English common law, India didn’t distinguish punishments for libel (written) and slander (spoken) defamations but covered both under the meaning of Section 499.
The Armed Forces Special Power Act
- It was passed in 1958 for the North-East and in 1990 for Jammu & Kashmir.
- The preamble of the law defines it as-
- “An Act to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon members of the armed forces in disturbed areas.”
- The law gives armed forces special powers to control “disturbed areas”.
- Disturbed areas are designated by the government when it opines that any region is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
- Under the law, the armed forces have powers to open fire, enter and search without warrant, and arrest any person who has committed a cognizable offence.
- They have also been provided immunity from being prosecuted under the law.
- The law has been repealed from Tripura in 2015 and from Meghalaya in 2018.
- Its use has also been restricted in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Currently, AFSPA is implemented in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
Criticism of these laws
- The law was introduced by the Britishers to have control over the activities of the nationalist leaders but even after Independence, the section continued to remain in force.
- Since then, the section has been repeatedly used by the governments to curb criticism against them.
- The courts have repeatedly said that this section can only be used as a measure for maintaining public order.
- Many governments and influential persons have also been accused of misusing the defamation law for suppressing legitimate criticism.
- The government agencies have been criticized for providing impunity to the police force under AFSPA.
- National and international human rights agencies have also criticized the act for violating human rights in the areas where AFSPA is in force.
- There are some instances of allegations of crimes by armed forces like extra-judicial killings and rapes, etc.
- The 2004 Jeevan Reddy Committee has also recommended a complete repeal of the law.