1) The law of sedition is unconstitutional
GS 2- Fundamental Rights
Context: In the given article the author talks about sedition laws and various judgement of courts on it. He says that an urgent review of the Kedar Nath judgment is necessary as ‘sedition’ violates the basic right of speech and expression
What’s the matter?
- In Vinod Dua’s case (2021), the Supreme Court of India has reaffirmed the law of sedition laid down in Kedar Nath Singh (1962) and directed governments to adhere to it.
- The Kedar Nath judgment upheld the constitutional validity of sedition as defined in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
- And the Court read down the provision by holding that only writings or speeches which incite people to violence against the Government will come within the mischief of sedition.
Issue of ‘disaffection’
- Section 124A of the IPC, which contains the law of sedition, categorises four sources of seditious acts. They are, spoken words, written words, signs or visible representations.
- The gist of the offence is: bringing or attempting to bring the government into contempt or hatred, or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the government.
- The Supreme Court’s assertion in Kedar Nath Case has consistently been ignored by governments all these years, and citizens of all ages have been charged with sedition for merely criticising the authorities.
- The problem actually lies in the fact that the law of sedition was not struck down by the Supreme Court in 1962 as unconstitutional.
- Sedition, as defined in Section 124A of the IPC, clearly violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which confers the Fundamental Right of freedom of speech and expression.
Not a reasonable restriction
- This section does not get protection under Article 19(2) on the ground of reasonable restriction.
- The act of reading down Section 124A brought it clearly under Article 19(2) and saved the law of sedition.
A few ironies
- This law was enacted by the British colonial government in 1870 with the sole object of suppressing all voices of Indians critical of the government.
- In the Bangobasi case in 1891, Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s case in 1897 and 1908 and Mahatma Gandhi’s case in 1922, the High Courts, and ultimately the judicial committee of the Privy Council, consistently held that incitement to violence or rebellion is not a necessary part of sedition under Section 124A of the IPC and a mere comment which the authorities think has the potential to cause disaffection towards the government is seditious.
- Supreme court, for some unexplained reason, did not want to hold it unconstitutional. So, it adopted the reasoning given by the Federal Court in Niharendu Dutta Majumdar vs Emperor in 1942 in which it was held that the gist of the offence of sedition is public disorder or a reasonable apprehension of public disorder.
- In the ultimate analysis, the judgment in Kedar Nath which read down Section 124A and held that without incitement to violence or rebellion there is no sedition, has not closed the door on misuse of this law.
- It is the personal opinion of the policeman that counts. The Kedar Nath judgment makes it possible for the law enforcement machinery to easily take away the fundamental right of citizens.
In a democracy, people have the inalienable right to change the government they do not like. People will display disaffection towards a government which has failed them. The law of sedition which penalises them for hating a government which does not serve them cannot exist because it violates Article 19(1)(a) and is not protected by Article 19(2). Therefore, an urgent review of the Kedar Nath judgement by a larger Bench has become necessary.
2) Reopen the files, reconsider privatisation
GS 3- Privatisation
Context: In the following artilce the author talks about the ill effects of privatisation and need to reconsider the govt’s decision.In the backdrop of an economic contraction, it is prudent to revisit the aggressive privatisation of public enterprises.
What’s the matter?
- Privatisation of the public sector, including banks, has been part of the wish list of economic reformers since 1991. This was at the core of the ‘Washington Consensus’.
- The ground realities of democratic politics in India, however, kept coming in the way of actual privatisation, though progressive disinvestment of the shares of public sector undertakings in the market has been taking place over the years.
- India is right now going through its worst economic crisis.
- The highest-ever contraction in the economy took place last year, unemployment has risen, incomes for growing numbers are falling, bank non-performing assets (NPAs) may be ballooning, and the fiscal deficit is rising.
- In these circumstances, it would be prudent to think through the pros and cons of the aggressive privatisation of public enterprises that is on the anvil.
Categories, issues, solutions
- There is the category of enterprises which have been sick for a long time. Their technology, plants and machinery are obsolete. Their managerial and human resources have atrophied. Reviews have come to the same conclusion: these are beyond redemption.
- They should be closed, and assets sold. But this has been difficult with successive governments as the labour in these enterprises have had a political constituency which has prevented closure.
- Prudent disposal of these plots of lands in small amounts would yield large incomes . All this would need the creation of dedicated efficient capacity as the task is huge and challenging.
- These enterprises may be taken away from their parent line Ministries and brought under one holding company which should have the sole mandate of speedy liquidation and asset sale.
- enterprises which have been financially sick but can be turned around. Their difficulties can be traced to ministerial micromanagement especially in enterprises with a direct consumer interface.
- Air India and the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) hotels are good examples. But these need bold decisions. Air India should ideally be made debt free and a new management should have freedom permitted under the law in personnel management to get investor interest.
The Chinese model
- . Pragmatism instead of ideology should guide thinking about them.
- The Chinese chose to nurture their good state-owned enterprises as well as their private ones to succeed in the domestic and global markets by increasing their competitiveness in cost, quality, and technology.
- The Chinese chose to promote both their public as well as their private sector enterprises to rise. Both have made China the economic superpower that it is today.
- With profitable public enterprises, the Government can continue to reduce its shareholding by offloading shares and even reducing its stake to less than 51% while remaining the promoter and being in control.
- Calibrated divestment to get maximum value over the medium term after considering market conditions should be the goal instead of being target driven to get a lower fiscal deficit number to please rating agencies.
- In correct accounting practice, asset sales should not be classified as revenue income for computing the fiscal deficit.
- Managements may be given longer and stabler tenures, greater flexibility to achieve outcomes, and more confidence to take well-considered commercial risks.
- They can also be asked to invest patient capital in strategic areas where risk is high and where risk averse private investment may not be easily forthcoming. The Chinese have done this well.
Redirect the private sector
- Outright privatisation has other implications. First, the number of Indian private firms which can buy out public sector firms are very few.
- Their limited financial and managerial resources would be better utilised in taking over the large number of private firms up for sale through the bankruptcy process and rapid turnaround of these firms to give a higher growth momentum to the economy.
- Successful large corporates need to be encouraged to invest and grow both in brownfield and greenfield modes in the domestic as well as international markets.
- Sale at fair or lower than fair valuations to foreign entities, firms as well as funds, has adverse implications from the perspective of being ‘Atma Nirbhar’. Again, greenfield foreign investment is what India needs and not takeovers.
- These enterprises provide for reservations in recruitment. With privatization, this would end and unnecessarily generate social unrest.
29.06.21 Mains Expected Questions
Q.1) Why do you think that disinvestment is necessary. What are the changes needed in the current disinvestment policy so that India can also become economic superpower.
Q.2) “Sedition law is archaic British law which hampers the freedom of speech and expression. “Do you agree that the sedition law should be repealed. What are the challenges associated with sedition law still being in place.