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Importance of free speech rights, new book offers scrupulous look into sedition law in India

Published by HarperCollins India, 'A Constitution to Keep: Sedition and Free Speech in Modern India' by Rohan J. Alva will be released on 27 March on ThePrint's Softcover.

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New Delhi: What is sedition and what is its provenance? How did the law on sedition take root in India and how was it used against the greatest nationalist leaders? ‘A Constitution to Keep: Sedition and Free Speech in Modern India’, written by Supreme Court lawyer Rohan J Alva, aims to answer a similar series of questions. 

Created during British imperial rule, from the mid-1800s until 1947, sedition was often used to quell the voice of the people, as sanctified in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. It rightfully earned the ire of those who fought for India’s independence.

Alva, through his book, contends that sedition is not a problem of the 21st century but rather a “scourge” that has afflicted India for almost two centuries. The author critically lays out the history of sedition in India between 1837 and 1945.

Furthermore, the book makes a compelling case for granting heightened constitutional protection to political speech while ensuring the purity of national discourse.

Published by HarperCollins, ‘A Constitution to Keep: Sedition and Free Speech in Modern India’ draws on global political theory, Indian constitutional history, as well as modern Indian and global jurisprudence. It argues that political critique of governmental affairs is “above matters of State regulation” and that laws cannot be made to regulate the discussion and advocacy of political issues.

“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. The promise of India’s freedom lies in the right to free speech. The need for the realisation of this promise is the central message of the book,” Alva said. 

Rohan J Alva is a counsel practising in the Supreme Court of India.

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