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New Delhi: A new book aims to offer a definitive account of the law on sedition in India in context of its complex coexistence with the fundamental right to free speech.
Written by Supreme Court lawyer Rohan J Alva, "A Constitution to Keep" looks at the controversial law under Section 124-A of the Constitution since its creation during the British colonial rule till 2022 when the apex court suspended it, questioning its need in modern India.
Since mid-1800 when it was enacted, the law was used to suppress the voice of dissent under imperial rule, then the Constitution made a clean break with it and added fundamental right to free speech.
"But then, through a series of events, which include a dramatic constitutional amendment that altered freedom of speech, Section 124-A came back to life. In 1962, the SC declared that this law was saved by the Constitution. But, six decades later, in the summer of 2022, the Supreme Court suspended Section 124-A and questioned the need for such a law in modern India," publisher HarperCollins India said in a statement.
The lawyer and author has drawn from archival material, Constituent Assembly debates, and Indian and global jurisprudence, to trace the history of the law on sedition over the decades.
"...There is perhaps no other law from the colonial era that has generated as much controversy and interest as the law on sedition. I believe my book helps the people to get a good grasp of the issues at stake and appreciate the abiding importance of free speech rights and its role in preserving and improving Indian democracy," Alva said.
The book aims to make a compelling case for granting heightened constitutional protection to political speech, and shows how it can be done while ensuring the purity of national discourse.
Swati Chopra, associate publisher, HarperCollins India, said that the book should be read by anyone "who feels strongly about the health of India's democracy and the right to free speech that should be central to it".
It will hit the stands on February 27.