Since independence, many writers, activists and cartoonists have been accused of sedition by governments across the country as a response to legitimate criticism. In its third attempt to determine the validity of sedition, earlier last year, the Law Commission of India observed that while dissent is essential to any democracy, law enforcement agencies must use sedition law judiciously. Additionally, it also held that it is necessary for the Supreme Court to interpret the provisions of sedition law.
The report also notes that the United Kingdom has itself abolished its own law on sedition almost a decade ago.
While the powers of the Law Commission of India are limited to providing suggestions and recommendations only, the Parliament of India, the lawmaking body of the government, and the judiciary, the custodian of human rights, ought to revisit the justification of this provision. With the indiscriminate use of archaic laws for dissenting against the government, many have raised their voices against such arbitrary restrictions on the fundamental right to free speech and expression , which is granted under the Constitution of India. Given the record of the ruling party in the last four years, intolerance of criticism is only seeing a rise in the country with authorities clamping down on free speech behind the garb of disloyalty and anti-national sentiments.
The Supreme Court of India held that any restrictions on speech could only be deemed reasonable under Section 19 2 of the Constitution of India. While the sedition law suffers a similar problem with definition, along with a lack of procedural safeguards, the Supreme Court has argued time and again that seditious words or actions are likely to threaten public order or incite violence, which is a reasonable restriction on free speech. This leads many to believe that authorities are abusing the law to stifle dissent and harass those who speak out.
Norms for a Misuse of Authority : the Alien and Sedition Acts - Persée
He was released on interim bail on 2 March for a lack of conclusive evidence. On 17 August , Amnesty International India was booked in a case of "sedition" and "promoting enmity" by Bengaluru police. Article The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law. Advocates for freedom of speech have argued that this constraint ought to be removed;   any constitutional amendment requires a referendum.
The thirty-seventh amendment to the constitution removed the requirement for blasphemy to be an offence. The law of the Republic of Ireland since the independence of the Irish Free State inherited earlier common law principles based on English law. The Offences against the State Act created the offences of making, distributing, and possessing a "seditious document". These provisions were largely aimed at Irish republican legitimatists who believed the Free State was a usurpation of the Irish Republic proclaimed in and again in The LRC notes that advocating violence is not essential for a document to be seditious.
The LRC also notes that Section 1A of the Broadcasting Authority Act inserted in  prohibited broadcasting of "anything which may reasonably be regarded as being likely to promote, or incite to, crime or as tending to undermine the authority of the State". Sedition charges were not uncommon in New Zealand early in the 20th century. For instance, the future Prime Minister Peter Fraser had been convicted of sedition in his youth for arguing against conscription during World War I, and was imprisoned for a year.
In New Zealand's first sedition trial in decades, Tim Selwyn was convicted of sedition section 83 of the Crimes Act on 8 June Shortly after, in September , the New Zealand Police laid a sedition charge against a Rotorua youth, who was also charged with threatening to kill.
In March , Mark Paul Deason, the manager of a tavern near the University of Otago , was charged with seditious intent  although he was later granted diversion when he pleaded guilty to publishing a document which encourages public disorder. It is presumed the intent was for the couch to be burned — a popular university student prank.
Police also applied for Deason's liquor license to be revoked.
Following a recommendation from the New Zealand Law Commission ,  the New Zealand government announced on 7 May that the sedition law would be repealed. Russell Campbell made a documentary regarding conscientious objectors in New Zealand called Sedition. Sedition was a common law offence in the UK.
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An intention to show that His Majesty has been misled or mistaken in his measures, or to point out errors or defects in the government or constitution as by law established, with a view to their reformation, or to excite His Majesty's subjects to attempt by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Church or State by law established, or to point out, in order to secure their removal, matters which are producing, or have a tendency to produce, feelings of hatred and ill-will between classes of His Majesty's subjects, is not a seditious intention.
Stephen in his "History of the Criminal Law of England" accepted the view that a seditious libel was nothing short of a direct incitement to disorder and violence. He stated that the modern view of the law was plainly and fully set out by Littledale J. In that case the jury were instructed that they could convict of seditious libel only if they were satisfied that the defendant "meant that the people should make use of physical force as their own resource to obtain justice, and meant to excite the people to take the power in to their own hands, and meant to excite them to tumult and disorder.
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The last prosecution for sedition in the United Kingdom was in , when three people were charged with seditious conspiracy and uttering seditious words for attempting to recruit people to travel to Northern Ireland to fight in support of Republicans. The seditious conspiracy charge was dropped, but the men received suspended sentences for uttering seditious words and for offences against the Public Order Act. In , a Law Commission working paper recommended that the common law offence of sedition in England and Wales be abolished.
They said that they thought that this offence was redundant and that it was not necessary to have any offence of sedition. In Scotland, section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Scotland Act abolished the common law offences of sedition and leasing-making  with effect from 28 March In , President John Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts , the fourth of which, the Sedition Act or "An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States" set out punishments of up to two years of imprisonment for "opposing or resisting any law of the United States" or writing or publishing "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" about the President or the U.
Congress though not the office of the Vice-President , then occupied by Adams' political opponent Thomas Jefferson. This Act of Congress was allowed to expire in after Jefferson's election to the Presidency. This Act of Congress was amended by the Sedition Act of , which expanded the scope of the Espionage Act to any statement criticizing the Government of the United States. These Acts were upheld in in the case of Schenck v.
Sedition Act to be abolished, says Liew
United States , but they were largely repealed in , leaving laws forbidding foreign espionage in the United States and allowing military censorship of sensitive material. In , the Alien Registration Act, or " Smith Act ", was passed, which made it a federal crime to advocate or to teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government , or to be a member of any organization which does the same.
It was often used against Communist Party organizations. This Act was invoked in three major cases, one of which against the Socialist Worker's Party in Minneapolis in , resulting in 23 convictions, and again in what became known as the Great Sedition Trial of in which a number of pro- Nazi figures were indicted but released when the prosecution ended in a mistrial.
Also, a series of trials of leaders of the Communist Party USA also relied upon the terms of the "Smith Act"—beginning in —and lasting until Although the U. United States , that same Court reversed itself in in the case of Yates v. United States , by ruling that teaching an ideal, no matter how harmful it may seem, does not equal advocating or planning its implementation. Although unused since at least , the "Smith Act" remains a Federal law.
There was, however, a brief attempt to use the sedition laws against protesters of the Vietnam War. On 17 October , two demonstrators, including then Marin County resident Al Wasserman, while engaged in a "sit-in" at the Army Induction Center in Oakland, California , were arrested and charged with sedition by deputy US. Marshall Richard St. Attorney Cecil Poole changed the charge to trespassing. Poole said, "three guys according to Mr.
Wasserman there were only 2 reaching up and touching the leg of an inductee, and that's conspiracy to commit sedition? That's ridiculous! Attorney Poole later added, "We'll decide what to prosecute, not marshals. He was among the 16 Puerto Rican nationalists offered conditional clemency by U. President Bill Clinton in , but he rejected the offer. Torres ". In , fourteen white supremacists were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges filed by the U.
And be it further enacted and declared , That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases. And be it further enacted , That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided , That the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.
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