|Part 3 of a 3 part series by SIDDHARTH NARRAIN. First published on The Hoot.|
While the Supreme Court’s decision lay to rest the debate on the scope and constitutional validity of the sedition law, the life of the sedition law is entangled with that of political dissent in the country. A brief search for reported High Court and Supreme Court cases on sedition gives us an indication of the kinds of situations where the sedition law is commonly used.
For instance, in 1967, the government prosecuted Ghulam Rasood Choari, the editor of an Agra based Urdu weekly called Ehsas for exhorting the Muslims of the country, especially the Muslims of Kashmir to violence against the government and bringing the readers of the paper into ‘hatred’ and contempt and dissatisfaction with the government (Ghulam Rasool Choari v. The State 1968 CriLJ 884).
Despite the many thoughtful critiques of the relationship between family and the state, I have always found it a little surprising that there is very little commentary on the relationship between two strange legal fictions. The first is the idea of the restitution of conjugal rights (RCR), and the other is sedition. The restitution of conjugal rights basically consists of the right of a spouse to demand that his or her- though more often his than her- spouse cohabit with him after she has ‘withdrawn from his society’. Away from the misty world of legal euphemisms, we all know what this means: that you can be forced to sleep with a somewhat less than pleasant person against your wishes. A legal commitment to love in a marriage is a serious thing indeed which only warns us that we must proceed with such a choice very carefully.
But like many marriages, the question of choice is somewhat restricted for many people- as is indeed the case of the choice of loving your country. After all isn’t sedition a crime of passion, and the punishment of an offence of the withdrawal of love for your nation. It is interesting to see that while treason in Sec. 121 of the IPC is about the waging of war against the state, sedition is about a forced love. It is about the creation of ‘disaffection’. As Nivedita Menon points out in her post, disaffection means “the absence or alienation of affection or goodwill; estrangement”.
A legal commitment to love your nation is also a serious thing indeed, and what then is the punishment of sedition if not, the restitution of the conjugal rights of the state?