The word ‘dissent’ holds great value when it comes to the realisation of a democracy in actual terms. Our country, India, despite being a republic hasn’t been able to enforce the correct applicability of this word. The recent past has ample instances of violence and suppression of people who held a dissenting opinion, who criticized the actions and functioning of the current government (murder of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh and the ousting of Abhisar Sharma and Punya Prasun Vajpayee from ABP are just two examples). In a state, where the media faces dire consequences for criticising the government, the right of the common person to dissent can hardly be discerned. Media or journalism, as one of the four pillars of democracy, has been given the right to criticize the government, and if it is not allowed to do so, democracy in a republic loses its very essence and meaning. In such a bleak scenario, the common person cannot voice their opinions publicly.
According to me, as a nation, we’re becoming more regressive by imposing diktats on the media. Back in colonial times, similar kinds of restrictions were imposed on the press because of which many journalists lost their lives and a lot of them were arrested. Today, we live in a democracy and yet we’re denied the basic rights that democracy promises, dissent being one of them. Isn’t the today’s situation similar to what it had been under the British rule? Isn’t this the time to make sedition (Section 124A of IPC) an outdated law? Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India.”
Section 124A in no way seems to allow dissent in a society. Post the Khilafat movement, Mahatma Gandhi in March 1922, soon after getting arrested on seditious charges said, “Section124A 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 the law. If one has no affection for a person, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.”
Today, the time is ripe for us to inculcate among the masses the negatives of 124A. The negatives of 124A easily outnumber the positives (I doubt if there is any). Furthermore, in the media, censure should be allowed to make democracy more functioning. The Indian media should be allowed to function independently, because, in times like these only the media can resurrect and give space to a common person’s dissent.