Sedition can be defined as a treason against the State. Though sedition has
the same end impact as treason, it is commonly defined as the act of organizing
or promoting resistance to the government in a manner (such as through speech or
writing) that refrains of the more grave subversive charges.
Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines Sedition as:
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 which may
extend to three years, to which a fine may be added, or with fine.
Simply it means anyone who tries to incite hatred, contempt, or disdain for the
government can be prosecuted under the sedition legislation. The original
constitution, issued in 1950, did not acknowledge the sedition statute and
provided comprehensive protection to the right to free expression under
fundamental rights. However, the first amendment, enacted in 1951, included
constraints that sanctioned the sedition statute. Also, In the year 2020, India
completed 150 years of sedition law.
Origin And Evolution
Under the British Raj, this rule was adopted in 1860 to prohibit any offenses
against the state. Following Independence, the authors of the constitution spent
a significant amount of time debating different areas of colonial law. The
British utilized the sedition legislation to suppress dissent and arrest freedom
fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak who protested the colonial
Bal Gangadhar Tilak's case
was the one that genuinely developed the
sedition statute. The trial judge expanded the reach of the legislation by
associating disaffection with disloyalty.
Following this, in 1922, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was charged with inciting or
attempting to incite discontent with the British administration.
In other words, he was accused of encouraging people to rebel against the
British government without resorting to violence. As a result, Mahatma gandhi
pleaded guilty to all charges and said as follows:
"Section 124 A under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the
political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen".
The issue therefore becomes: How and why does sedition still exist if it was
used to suppress free expression prior to independence?
The use of the word "seditious" was highly challenged when India gained
independence and the right to freedom was argued. Some, such as Sardar Vallabhai
Patel and C Rajagopalchari, argued that the term "seditious" should be included.
Others, such as K.M Munshi and Sonnath Lahiri, were against it. The term
"sedition" was eventually removed from the Constitution, but not from the IPC,
where it is still used.
This regulation was reinstated by the very contentious First Amendment, which
was approved by the government of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime
Significance And Issues
- Restrictions that are Reasonable
Reasonable constraints (under Article 19(2)) can always be put on this right
(Freedom of Speech and Expression) in order to regularly secure its responsible
exercise and to ensure that it is equally available to all people, according to
the Indian constitution.
- Keeping Unity and Integrity
The government can use the Sedition Act to confront anti-national, separatist,
and terrorist groups.
- Maintaining State Stability
It aids in the defense of the elected government against efforts to overturn it
by violent and illegitimate methods. The presence of a legally created
government is a necessary prerequisite for the state's stability.
- Colonial-era relic:
Sedition was employed by colonial authorities to imprison those who opposed
Under British control, pioneers of the liberation struggle such as Lokmanya
Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh, and others were
imprisoned for "seditious" speeches, publications, and actions. As a result, the
widespread application of the sedition statute dates back back to colonial
- The Constituent Assembly's Position:
Sedition was not included in the Constitution by the Constituent Assembly.
Members were concerned that it would restrict freedom of speech and expression.
They said that the sedition statute may be used as a weapon to restrict people's
constitutionally protected freedom to demonstrate.
- Disregarding Supreme Court's decision:
In the 1962 decision of Kedar Nath Singh vs. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court
narrowed the definition of sedition to "acts having the purpose or inclination
to cause commotion, disruption of law and order, or encouragement to violence."
As a result, bringing sedition accusations against academics, attorneys, social
activists, and students violates the Supreme Court's mandate.
- Democratic values were suppressed
Because of the indiscriminate use of sedition laws, India is referred to as an
Current Stance On Sedition Law
A Chronology Of The Anti-Sedition Laws
The Special Act XVII made sedition a crime under section 124A of the Indian
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a freedom warrior, was notably tried for sedition
- January 20, 1962
The Supreme Court affirms the law's legitimacy in the Kedar Nath case, but
argues that criticism of the government cannot be regarded as sedition unless it
is coupled with a demand for violence.
- July 15, 2021
A bench led by CJI NV Ramana issued a notice to the Centre in response to
challenges to the provision's legality.
- April 27, 2022
The Supreme Court sent the Centre notice of the other pleas and provided the
Solicitor General time to respond.
- May 5, 2022
If appeals challenging the sedition statute are forwarded to a larger bench, the
SC said it would hear arguments on May 10 on legal questions.
- May 7, 2022
The Solicitor General upholded the sedition statute and a 1962 constitutional
court decision supporting its legality.
- May 9, 2022
The Ministry of Home Affairs provided an affidavit in which they referred to the
PM's position on the matter. It asked the Hon'ble Supreme Court not to spend
time debating the constitutionality of the sedition legislation.
- May 11, 2022
The use of the 152-year-old sedition legislation has been put on hold by the
Since there has been such widespread abuse of sedition laws in recent decades,
the topic of whether the law should be preserved or repealed has always been
As a result, a petition was filed by Major-General SG Vombatkere (Retd) and he
"Sedition is a legal relic from the times of colonial rule, it has been removed
from the British statute book and deserves to be struck down for our republic."
According to the petition, criminalizing expression based on unconstitutionally
vague definitions such as "disaffection toward government" or "contempt against
government," among other things, places unreasonable restrictions on the
fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and
causes a chilling effect on free speech. It goes on to say that before
dealing with Section 124-A, it's important to evaluate the passage of time and
the evolution of the law. The petitioner claimed that the Supreme Court
supported the Sedition legislation in the 1962 Kedar Nath versus State of
 case. Doctrines like the 'chilling effect' on free expression were
unheard of at the time.
The Supreme Court as a result suspended contentious sedition legislation from
the colonial era. The court also stated that federal and state authorities could
not bring fresh sedition accusations against anyone until the statute was
reviewed. It also halted all outstanding sedition trials, appeals, and hearings,
and said that anyone accused of sedition might seek bail from the courts.
Further, A three-judge panel hearing a petition against the provision, which
included India's Chief Justice N.V Ramana said that, "The rigors of Section 124A
are not in sync with the contemporary social context, and were meant at a time
when this country was under the colonial government,". This provision of
legislation should not be used until the re-examination is completed.
Despite the fact that our country has had a sedition statute for more than 150
years, there has always been a difference of opinion about it. Given the number
of times the legislation has been exploited, the Supreme Court's recent judgment
is reasonable, even if it is only temporary. Regardless of the fact that the
regulation was enforced by Britishers during the colonial era, it became
outdated in the UK in the 1960s and was ultimately abolished in 2009.
Some sedition laws have also been repealed in the United States.Laws that have
been misused for a long period inevitably lose their authority thereby making it
essential to review them or take necessary measures.
- It is the inhibition or discouragement of legitimate exercise of natural
and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction
- 1962 AIR 955