'Sedition Law Is Highly Obnoxious': Here's What Nehru & Gandhi Had Actually Said
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra took to Twitter to slam the Centre's retort on sedition law.
"What (former Prime Minister) Nehru couldn’t do, the current government is doing," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had quipped in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 10 May, while the Chief Justice NV Ramana-led bench was hearing the challenge to the sedition law.
Mehta’s remark was in reference to the Central government’s claim that they have decided to re-examine Section 124A, and after Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, counsel for one of the petitioners, had noted that:
“We are in post-Constitution era. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said that this provision is obnoxious and the sooner we get rid of sedition, the better.”
But Mehta’s remark did not bode well with Sibal, who immediately pointed out that the Centre was not at all doing what Nehru could not do.
"No, not at all. You are not doing that. You are supporting the law. You are saying all is good, Mr Mehta."Kapil Sibal
Even Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra took to Twitter to slam the Centre's retort on sedition law. “You are right, Sir. Nehru could not lie in court, spy on countrymen, arrest innocents, lock up dissenters with no due process. The list is a long one,” she wrote.
A 2021 study by Article 14 had revealed that India has seen a 28 percent rise in sedition cases in the last decade. According to their database, "65 percent of nearly 11,000 individuals in 816 sedition cases since 2010 (till 2021) were implicated after 2014", coinciding with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. Among those charged with sedition range from opposition politicians, students to journalists, authors and academics.
What Did Nehru Actually Say?
While introducing the first Constitution of India (Amendment) Bill 1951, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had said, in reference to the sedition law:
“Now so far as I am concerned that particular Section 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.”
“The sooner we get rid of it the better,” he said, before adding: “We might deal with that matter in other ways, in more limited ways, as every other country does but that particular thing, as it is, should have no place, because all of us have had enough experience of it in a variety of ways and apart from the logic of the situation, our urges are against it.”
And Where Did Mahatma Gandhi Stand on Sedition?
Sibal, in his retort to Mehta, had also gone on to quote Mahatma Gandhi, and say: “Affection cannot be manufactured.”
But what had Gandhi said in his entirety? And when?
In 1922, when Gandhi was charged by the British Government for sedition as defined in Section 124A of the IPC, instead of entering a plea of “not guilty,” he had pleaded guilty. Thereby, Gandhi had gone on to say:
“Section 124 A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
“Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite violence... "
"I have no personal ill will against any single administrator; much less can I have any disaffection towards the King’s person," Gandhi added. "But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a government which in its totality had done more harm to India than any previous system.”
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