SEDITION LAW IN INDIA
Sedition in ordinary sense means a stirring up of rebellion against the government. Sedition is an offence against the state. Sedition is nothing but a lible of the established authority of law, i.e. government. Hence it is called as seditious lible in England.
Every citizen has been given freedom to speak and express their views under Article 19(1) (a) of Indian Constitution. However, this freedom is not absolute and some reasonable restriction have been imposed on freedom of speech and expression.
In British era, when Indian Penal Code was drafted in 1870, sedition was not part of it. Inserted to Indian Penal Code, 1870 by the Amending Act of 1898 after the Wahabi Movement, this provision was later replaced by section 124A. According to British Era Law, under the old Indian Penal Code, “exciting or attempting to excite feeling or disaffection was considered as Sedition”. The Wahabi Movement was a revivalist movement which tried to purify Islam by eliminating all the un-Islamic practices which had crept into Muslim society through the ages. Period of Movement 1820s to 1870s It offered the most serious and well-planned challenge to British supremacy in India from 1830’s to 1860’s.
Indian Penal Code, 1870
Sedition is discussed in Indian Penal Code, 1870 under section 124A which says that —Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in [India], shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Explanation 1.—The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
Explanation 2.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
Explanation 3.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
Interpretation of the court
As per the interpretation of the court on section 124A of Indian Penal Code, 1870 following acts have been consider as “seditious”:
- Raising of slogans against the government.
Case: Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab
Raising of slogans “Raj karega Khalsa, Khalistan zindabad” by individuals casually once or twice was held not to be seditious.
- Any written words which incites violence and public disorder.
Case: Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar
A speech made by a person must incite violence / public disorder for it to be considered as sedition.
Sedition found in other law:
- Indian Penal Code, 1860 (section 124A)
- The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (section 95)
- The Seditious Meeting Act, 1911
- The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (section 2(o)(iii))
What is the principle objective of the sedition law?
We were under illegal British occupation and had to over throw the British rule, we had to wage an ideological battle against the British rule because it was an illegal rule.
Does it violate right to speech and expression under article 19(1) (a)?
Every citizen has been given freedom to speak and express their views under article 19(1) (a) of Indian Constitution. However this freedom is not absolute and some reasonable restrictions have been imposed on freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (2). But when a person does an act by his words signs or representation which is held to be contemptuous towards the government of India, then such act is punishable under section 124A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Sedition is an offence that criminalize speech that is regarded to be disloyal to or threatening to the state.
Wordings similar to Criminal Defamation.
Section 499 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that-
Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.
Reinforce conjecture that sedition is a specialized form of defamation, intended to damage the reputation of the state or the government. Also the punishment in section 124A are curious. Section 124A on one hand is done by words, either spoken or written or by the sign, or by visible representation or otherwise brings, excite, attempts hatred, or contempt or disaffection towards government established by law. On the other hand, section 499 is done by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by sign or by visible representations, makes or publishes imputations concerning any person.
Sedition is the crime which is known as “Desh Dhroh” in Hindi, this crime can be seen in many of the case i.e. before independence and due to which many freedom fighters were got imprisoned like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jogendra Chuder Bose, etc. sedition was a crime earlier as well as today itself, today Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was jailed because at the time of rally of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai, he had been accused of putting up banners mocking up constitution and posting the same on the website. He was charged under section 124A of IPC, 1860, section 66A of IT Act, 2000 and section 2 of Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971. Also 60 students who were Kashmiri when found cheering for Pakistan in a cricket match against India, so they also were charged for the same in March in 2014. So it could be sum-up as any word which is inciting people against the government can be charged as sedition.
Author: Priyanshi Bhardwaj,
Trinity Institute of Professional Studies