History Of Sedition LawDraft Provision in 1837
Thomas Macaulay presented the idea of sedition through his draught proposal in the year
1837, which was advanced in and by the British in British Colonial India. In 1834, Macaulay
accepted a request to serve on the recently established Supreme Council of India, believing
that he could use the money he would receive as compensation to acquire a talent that would
last a lifetime. He created a reformatory code that eventually became the IPC, the cornerstone
of Indian criminal law.
This Sedition arrangement was included in the preliminary readings,
research, and writing of the Indian Penal Code, making it one of the earliest laws
implemented during the frontier era. Proviso 113 of the Criminal Code described the
dissidence law as a crime. The purpose behind its fuse in the draft was the expansion in
renegade by the Indian progressive against the organization rulers.
The Sedition law was not
the solitary law which was passed by the Britishers to stifle the voices of Indian progressives.
Different laws, like Vernacular Press Act, 1878,(repealed 1881), the Newspapers Act, 1908,
and the Indian Press Act, 1910(repealed in 1921) gave lawful support to the British
government to limit the voices that conflicted with it. However for the limit of this task, we
will be adhering to the Sedition Law.
Indian Penal Code Definition
Indian Penal Code defines sedition in the following manner:
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 a fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may
extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty and all
feelings of enmity.
Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the
with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or
excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this
Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other
the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or
not constitute an offence under this section.
As per the given definition, it was made clear that the law of sedition had two
components, these two major components were taken from the main definition of
where it was mentioned that:
- Sedition contains three actions, namely, an act, conduct or a speech.
Any of these actions,
when performed against the state or the government were made punishable.
- All these actions were intended to incite people to rebel against the
state, government or
- Pre - Independence Sedition (Bal Gangadhar Tilak Case)
Since the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was first introduced in 1860, there have been significant
long-term developments in India's law regarding free speech. Perhaps the most prominent
historical examples of seditious behaviour are our political opponents of pilgrim authority in
the country. Promoter of businesses Bal Gangadhar Tilak on two occasions, was charged
with sedition and dissidence.
The initial in 1897 for speeches that allegedly inspired others
violent behaviour, which led to that two British diplomats had died. In 1898, he was charged
and released on bail. He was again charged in 1909 for writing rebellious articles in his
newspaper Kesari. Tilak received a year and a half in prison for inciting people to rebel
against the British. Mohammed Ali Jinnah first provided Tilak with protection, followed by
Joseph Baptista and then, when no one else was there, a volley of instructions.
judge was really DD Davar, Tilak's choice
for the 1897 preliminary. Three years in each
section of Tilak's six-year sentence of transportation to Burma. Baptista's request for a leave
of interest in the privy Council on behalf of Tilak was denied.
Tilak executed his penalty,
which resulted in his simple detention in Mandalay, and eventually returned to India with a
significant impact on the nation's political difficulties. Bal Gangadhar Tilak had to deal with
dissidence accusations even though he hadn't intended to make an insubordinate statement;
instead, he was merely conveying a message of opportunity and freedom that had been
construed in an unfavourable way.
- Post Independence Sedition Law
The debates in the founding assembly reveal that the sedition provision under Article 13 was
not woven into the Constitution because the framers saw it as a limitation on the freedom of
speech and expression, but it still exists in the penal code today.
During the discussion, Shri
K.M Munshi said that:
"The sedition law is not made an offence in order to minister to the
wounded vanity of Government. Public disorder is the gist of the offence. The acts or words
complained of must either incite disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that is
their intention or tendency".
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru discussed the law of sedition in his
1951 speech introducing the first Constitutional Amendment Bill, emphasizing how offensive
it was and had no place in any body of laws. The Sedition Law was preserved as one of the
tools to provide "reasonable restriction" on the Fundamental Right to Free Speech and
Expression, under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, after all the contentious talks in
the Cabinet Meeting of 1946–1948.
- Article 19(2) and its implications regarding Sedition
In the Kedarnath Case5 [Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar, 1962 AIR 955], where the
Supreme court examined the constitutional validity of Section 124A, the court had occasion
to consider the extent of the subversive effect. to call Based on the fact that the word
rebellion does not appear in Article 19 (2) or in the reasonable limitation provision, a court
could confirm 12A only if it falls within the scope of public policy.
Thus it was rightly
concluded that the word 'sedition' is interpreted only in cases related to 'public order'.
However, because public policy is inherently a very subjective matter, there are many
situations where both sides can take advantage of the Sedition Act.
The "reasonableness" of
punishments and sanctions under Article 19(2) has always been a hotly debated topic, and in
most cases the argument has invariably gone the wrong way. Let's take a closer look at the
misuse of sedition laws in India and compare it from the perspective of the government and
the general public.
- Sedition Law Abuses
Just skimming the relevant portion creates a nebulous impression. The phrase "attempts or
excites disaffection towards the Government" is inherently ambiguous and open to various
interpretations by both courts and investigating officers. The discrepancy between the words
"disaffection," "contempt," and "hate" still exists, which is the issue.
By expanding the
meaning of such obscure terms to include anything, there is sufficient opportunity for their
heinous misuse. Even though the section's explanation states that statements that express
disapproval of government action-administrative or otherwise-without inciting hatred or
contempt do not constitute sedition, we continue to see such egregious abuse of this provision.
In the 1995 case Balwant Singh v. Union of India, the court firmly stated that not all criticism
constitutes sedition and that the true motive of the statement must be taken into account
before labelling it as such. In this case, the court declined to punish the defendants for using
anti-state slogans such as "Khalistan Zindabad" since they did not pose a threat to the
government or foster animosity between any religious groups.
- Binayak Sen Case (Landmark Bail)
Sen was detained in Bilaspur on May 14 on suspicion of acting as a messenger between
politician and jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Guha, who was
also suspected of having ties to the group. Sen visited Sanyal, 70, 33 times while he was
imprisoned in Raipur, though each visit required prior police authorization. According to
reports, the Chattisgarh police also used some electronic records to prove a connection
between Sen and the Naxalites.
These documents, photographs, and magazine covers were
discovered at Sen's home, where, in his own words, he was conducting research on Naxalite
behaviour. In 2010, the Judicial Authorities imprisoned Binayak Sen for having Naxal
material in his hands as well as for his alleged involvement with Naxalites in the state's ruling
government. He was released from prison after several months and was given bail by the
No precise justification for the order was provided, but Justice Sinha's
famous comment that "merely owning Gandhian books won't make you a Gandhian" is still
fresh in the minds of many who dispute the Sedition Law. Similar to this, simply owning
Naxal literature will not turn you into a Naxalite. This claim was sufficient to establish a new
standard for interpreting and adjudicating the puzzling cases of sedition in our nation.
Landmark Cases And Events Of Sedition (Modern Era)
- Kanahiya Kumar Case (JNU Sedition Event)
On February 9, 2016, several Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students demonstrated on
their campus in opposition to the execution of Kashmiri separatist Maqbool Bhatt and Indian
Parliament attack suspect Afzal Guru. Former Democratic Students' Union members were the
event's organisers (DSU). The university administration withdrew approval for the
programme moments before it was set to begin, despite concerns from ABVP student union
members. At the occasion, disputes arose between numerous student organisations.
people in the video, which was released by the Indian news portal Zee news, were guests to
the university who were hiding their identities, according to an investigation.They were
yelling "anti-India" chants. A large number of people, including politicians and JNU students,
disagreed with the chants. Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNUSU, was detained by the
Delhi Police under section 124 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1860, on
suspicion of sedition and criminal conspiracy.
Five more students-Umar Khalid, Anirban
Bhattacharya, Rama Naga, Anant Prakash, and Ashutosh Kumar-went into hiding after
Kanhaiya Kumar was taken into custody. Ten days later, they emerged from hiding. Anirban
Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid surrendered to the authorities and were detained. The other
three students stayed in class but said they were ready to talk to the authorities if they needed
Sedition legislation use and detention were harshly criticised for stifling political
opposition. The British Raj was alleged to have utilised a legislation that Kumar was detained
under that was passed in 1870 to stifle the Indian independence movement. Teachers at the
university called the arrest "excessive police action" and denounced it. In a human chain,
JNU students argued that Kanhaiya Kumar should not be accused of sedition. A human rights
group in India called for the abolition of India's sedition law because it contravenes
international standards for freedom of expression and that Kumar's arrest and the accusations
made against him were "uncalled for".
The committee imposed various punishments on several students in response to the investigation. Besides expelling Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya from the institution,
Kanhaiya Kumar was fined Rs 10,000. Other students were fined, robbed, banned from
campus or denied access to hostel facilities.
The committee found that a group of masked
foreigners shouted offensive slogans at the February 9 meeting. The panel condemned the
university's security team for failing to prevent outsiders from leaving the campus or stopping
the sloganeering. Organizers of the original event were also criticized for "failing to act
responsibly". "This behavior by outsiders has brought shame to the entire JNU community"'
the panel said.
- Aseem Trivedi Case (A Controversial Cartoonist)
Aseem Trivedi was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of sedition. He is a polarising political
activist and cartoonist best known for his anti-corruption campaign, Cartoons Against
Corruption. Amit Katarnayea, a legal advisor with a Mumbai-based NGO, filed the complaint,
accusing Trivedi of showing 'insulting and demeaning' sketches during an Anna Hazare anti-
corruption rally and of posting them online.
The Parliament was depicted as a lavatory, and
rabid wolves were used in place of the lions in the National Emblem, casting a derogatory
light on it. Members of India Against Corruption (IAC) allegedly claimed that Trivedi was a
victim of the government due of their anti-corruption campaign, as reported by India Today.
According to Mayank Gandhi of the IAC, "The case has been registered only because Aseem
had participated in the BKC protest organised by Anna Hazare and had raised his voice
against corruption". The administration is aiming to stifle his opposition in this way. When a
young guy was arrested for making fun of the country's blatant corruption, it raised serious
questions about the freedom of speech and expression in the Trivedi case.
It's reasonable that
some individuals could find his cartoon offensive and in poor taste, but to condemn someone
to life in prison for such an offence is excessive. The cartoon that Aseem Trivedi is accused
of producing depicts "Bharat Mata" being sexually abused by politicians and bureaucrats and
substitutes the national anthem of India with "Three wolves" rather than "Three lions".
sedition charges were dropped after a lawyer submitted an independent plea, and he was
released on a 5000 rupee personal bond as bail. The accusations of sedition against Trivedi
were a "bonafide knee jerk reaction", Attorney General Darius Khambatta admitted in front
of the HC court, to the numerous complaints the police had received regarding Trivedi's
The proper sedition charges were dropped by the Maharashtra government on
October 12, 2012. After carefully examining the case's facts, the court confirmed that it does
not amount to an offence as that term is defined in Section 124(a) of the IPC.
- Shreya Singhal Case (Technology and Sedition)
The Supreme Court of India's decision to invalidate Section 66A of the Information
Technology Act for allegedly violating Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution, which
guarantees everyone the right to freedom of speech and expression, is significant in terms of
Indian law. In 2012, Shreya Singhal, then a law student, submitted a petition to alter Section
66A in response to the detention of two teenage girls in Mumbai over a Facebook post
condemning the city's lockdown following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.
other girl simply "liked", while one of the girls posted a comment.Comprehending this
decision requires understanding the court's holding that speech, regardless of how
"unpopular," obscene, or indecent, must have a proven relationship to violence or a
disturbance of the peace. Only "representation", according to the Supreme Court's distinction
between the two terms, is criminally culpable.
The Supreme Court ruling had been on hold
for three years when the petition was submitted in 2015, but Shreya had not been relocated. "I
occasionally felt depressed, but I never gave up. I was particularly disturbed to learn that
while the matter was still being investigated by the Commission of Inquiry, the police were
still making arrests under Section 66A of the IT Act. It was reassuring that despite the arrests,
comments were still being left". In a 52-page decision that went into considerable depth
about India, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 66-A of the IT Act, interpreted Section 79
of the Act and the pertinent provisions, and confirmed the constitutionality of Section 69A of
the Act. English and American laws on free speech. In his remarks on behalf of the court,
Justice Nariman provided a list of standards for determining when speech restrictions are
generally appropriate under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
The court determined
that Section 66-A violated Article 19(1)(a) because it was not precisely tailored to the speech
it wanted to stifle and was too ambiguous and wide. The court specifically determined that
statutory language that is ambiguous and wide has a "disturbing effect" on speech, such as
the ability to halt broadcasting. In addition, the court determined that the "public order"
clause of Section 19(2) of the Constitution only applies to "incitement" or more specifically,
to incitement, which expressly alludes to upsetting the peace. The court upheld the position
made by the petitioners' attorney that there is no discernible difference between print,
broadcast, and actual media.
The court cited Article 14 of the Asian nation's constitution in its
ruling. critical online discourse On the Internet, anyone may express their viewpoint without
having to pay anything, which is the obvious distinction. While the Supreme Court's decision
has had a significant impact on protecting freedom of speech on the Internet from arbitrary
restrictions, section 66A has often been used in retaliation for prohibit online speech.
Although the Supreme Court's ruling significantly increased the protection of internet
communication from arbitrary limitations, section 66A has frequently been employed as
payback to restrict online speech.
Sedition has therefore been both imposed and rescinded to be inflicted on
the accused in modern times. The Law of Sedition, however, has become
more incongruous in basic jurisprudence in the modern era as
constitutional validity has risen, particularly in the context of Fundamental
Rights, as it conflicts with one of the most important rights of Free speech
- Importance of the violation (Post Independence v. Modern Era)
Several Indian Freedom Fighters participated in numerous status trials in cases alleging
violations of Indian law during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Since Bharat's
independence, there have been numerous instances of misuse in the post-independence era.
has been used arbitrarily to quell dissent. Its primary audience consists of writers, journalists,
activists who question government policy and come out against it, and political dissenters.
Throughout the era, courts, lawyers, and political activists have frequently debated whether
or not freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right. It gives a person the
opportunity to express themselves, to disagree, to change for the better, and to freely
The restriction must be reasonable and constitutionally acceptable, it
cannot be arbitrary. The IPC's Section 124A calls for a reconsideration of the gift issue. The
right balance between infringement legislation and freedom of speech and expression must be
maintained. Additionally, it has been stated that it is crucial to narrow the scope of section
124A application and limit it from being used arbitrarily and indiscriminately because doing
so can have a "chilling effect" on people's freedoms of speech and expression. It has been
defined that "Sedition" is infidelity in practise.
The purpose of infringement laws is to sow
discontent, spark political unrest, undermine the legitimacy of the government, and degrade
the administration of justice. However, it has been hotly contested whether or not there
should be a detailed distinction made between "dissent" and "disaffection". Dissent doesn't
always imply disaffection and vice versa; these two concepts are wholly distinct from one
- Constitutional Validity Discussions
According to discussions over constitutional legitimacy, India is the world's most populous
democracy, and dissent serves as the democracy's safety valve. Therefore, such out-of-date
Colonial Era law is not applicable in the twenty-first century. In fact, the government today
frequently uses this law as a tool to muzzle the voice of the people.
infringement may be a cognoscible offence, meaning that police don't need a warrant to make
an arrest, they frequently detain the people and file flimsy charges. According to the NCRB's
most recent report, 193 infringement charges have been submitted in the preceding four years,
starting in 2015. However, just forty three instances have had their trials concluded, and of
those, only four have found the defendant guilty.
This emphasis the fact that although the
government and police abuse this law to suit their whims and fancies, they utterly fail when it
comes to convicting those defendants of committing the offence. Therefore, it is frequently
implicit that this law will do more harm than good. Currently, the majority of the country has
declared the infringement statute to be unconstitutional or has left it out of their penal code.
In fact, England, which inspired this provision in India, also removed it 13 years ago,
therefore there is no justification for India to maintain the same.
As a result of laws like the
Seditious Meetings Act of 1911, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (section 95), and the
Unlawful (Prevention Act), we can today declare that infringement is no longer necessary. It's
additionally been heavily debated by critics of infringement that it's a British law, and thus
the same law was repealed by UK's government in 2009, thus keeping it within the realms of Bharat, that was a British colony, and thus the law was enacted to forestall rebellions and
mass protests ought to be repealed from our constitution still.
Sedition remains a strictly enforced statute in India, notwithstanding a number of changes.
Though the legislation has occasionally been upheld in a just manner, there have also been
times when it has been exploited to silence dissenting voices. Many artists, journalists, and
political activists have been held in check by governments using the law, sometimes in very
But the Sedition Act does have some advantages. The Sedition Law can
be viewed as a powerful weapon to establish adequate checks and balances in a politically
charged society that occasionally forgets the responsibilities that come with the granted
fundamental rights if it is used and revised by the courts.
Sedition in its current definition
undoubtedly ruthlessly restricts and impedes the right to free speech, but despite this, it
retains a legitimate expectation that speakers will do so in a manner consistent with moral
decency and the public's good.
Suggestions for Sedition Law Amendments
- Reduction in Punishment
In light of the times we live in today, sedition convictions should carry more lenient
sentences. The crime of sedition generally does not call for imprisonment up to a life
sentence or other such harsh punishments today because of increased freedom of speech and
expression and stronger views on the government among the populace.
always possible that someone who is accused of sedition spoke out of turn or in the heat of
the moment. The seditious conduct should be handled more reasonably unless they have
actually caused another person tangible harm.
- Disaffection v. Dissent
When evaluating situations of sedition, it should be very clear what constitutes "dissent" and
what constitutes "disaffection". When examining our society's moral compass, "Disaffection"
is more likely to inspire anger and disdain among the populace and should be handled as such.
Sedition is unquestionably a contentious idea, and it must be carefully balanced with our
"Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression".
Every citizen should have the freedom to
express their opinions on the Government, even if no citizen should be permitted to sow
unwarranted animosity among the populace or instigate violence against the Government
(particularly in a nation based on the values of non-violence). People have referred to the
implemented law as "draconian" because of the sometimes discrepancy between the
interpretation set out by the Indian courts and the actual implementation of this law. Perhaps
now is the ideal time to think about changing this law, as people are becoming more
conscious of their rights and liberties and have a greater feeling of duty and responsibility in
this democratic society.