Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the prince among the political
sections designed to suppress the liberty of the citizens
these are the words
of Mahatma Gandhi during his imprisonment under the section in 1922 for his
three articles for Young India. The usage of this section is still in question
in independent India.
In layman's terms sedition means a provocation to go against the Government or a
monarch. And according to our IPC whoever by words either spoken our written, or
otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or
attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law 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. A constitution bench upheld its validity in Kedarnath Singh vs.
State of Bihar
in 1962, Citation-1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769.
It was ruled unconstitutional by Punjab High Court in 1951. Now the question
arises that whether this controversial section is consistent with the freedom of
speech guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a)
. Though there are some reasonable
restrictions provided with our fundamental rights but we cannot shy away from
the fact that the Government in post independent era has used it to for its
political vendetta. We shall further discuss the origin of the law, claims
supporting the law, claims against the law and constitutional validity.
Origin of the law:
The law was not originally inducted into our IPC, 1860 but was trickled by Sir
James Stephen via amendment to suppress the voices of the citizens in pre
independent era of India. Originally it was drafted by Thomas Macaulay in 1837.
It was after the Wahabi Movement the British felt the implementation of the
The movement focused on protesting against any change in original
Islam and was led by Syed Ahmed Barelvi. Eventually the Wahabis were termed as
traitors by the British and carried out military operations against them. This
was the time they introduced the term sedition
in the constitution. Mahatma
Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant were prominent targets during the
colonial period. The first case was reported against Jogendra Chandra Bose,
editor of Bangobasi for criticising the Age of consent Bill.
Claims supporting the law:
- Such acts are essential in order to check seccionist propagandas.
- The fundamental right for freedom of speech guaranteed under article
19(1) (a) cannot be used as a tool to spread violence or hatred against
the Government established by law.
- It will help in curbing the activities to overthrow the Government.
- It will help in combating maoist insurgency, terrorist and anti-national
Claims against the law:
- If Britain itself has abolished the offence in 2009 labeling it as an artefact
of colonial period when freedom of expression was not considered as a right why
are we lingering to put an end to it in our democracy.
- Criticising the policies of Government shall not be labeled as criticising the
Government or an attempt to overthrow the Government and term it as seditious.
Questioning the Government is the right of every citizen.
- The term disaffection is quite indefinite under the section of
124A as different people construe the term differently and it makes it
easier for the corrupt politicians to misuse the law.
- UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) and IPC itself are enough for
restraining the disruption of public order or any such attempts so there is no
need of such laws.
The constitutionality of the act was challenged in 1962 in Kedar Nath Vs State
. The point whether the law on sedition should be applicable in a
democracy where fundamental right for free speech and expression is guaranteed.
Every citizen of the nation can write about the Government by way of criticism
or comment until and unless they incite people to overthrow the Government,
incite people to create violence or cause public disorder.
This is what the
Supreme Court had ruled in the judgment. So basically commenting on the measures
taken by the Government without provoking the citizens to indulge in feelings of
enmity is not seditious
. Talking about the present scenario more than 3000
protestors were charged for sedition for protesting against the Citizenship
Amendment Act (CAA) and approx 3300 farmers were charged in 2019 for protesting
about the land disputes. These are the reports of NCRB (National Crime Records
Now the time has come to ponder over the applicability of this law in a
democratic and a sovereign country like India. Weightage must be given to public
opinions in policies established by Government because at the end it is public
for which the Government works. Terming a citizen as anti-national
easier for the police to arrest him or her is something obnoxious in post
independent era. After all individual autonomy should be the foundation for real
freedom if we intend to live in a democratic society.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Safeeya Sabeer,
Roll No-2082038 - BBA LLB (B), KIIT School Of
Authentication No: DE32349977517-25-1220