sedition laws in india

Introduction

Every citizen has been given the freedom to speak and express their views under Article 19(1)(a) of the 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 124-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Sedition is an offense that criminalizes speech that is regarded to be disloyal to or threatening to the state.

The provision of Section 124A is very wide and it covers the act of defamation of the Government excluding any criticism in good faith of any particular measures or acts of administration.

History

In British Era, Section 124A was not a piece of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Be that as it may, this Section was embedded into IPC by the IPC (Amendment) Act, 1870. By a correcting demonstration of 1898, this arrangement was subsequently supplanted by Section 124A. As per the British Era Law, under the old IPC, “Energizing or endeavoring to energize sentiments or offense was considered as Sedition”.

Law of Sedition

The term ‘Sedition’ means “conduct or speech which results in mutiny against the authority of the state”. Law of Sedition deals with section 124A of IPC, 1860, which is considered as a reasonable restriction on freedom of speech. It was drafted by Thomas Macaulay and introduced in 1870.

The following points describe the origin of sedition law:

  • The origin of Sedition law in India is connected to the Wahabis Movement of the 19th century.
  • This was an Islamic revivalist movement and was led by Syed Ahmed Barelvi.
  • Since 1830, the movement was active but in the wake of the 1857 revolt, it turned into armed resistance, a Jihad against the British.
  • The British termed Wahabis as rebels and carried out military operations against Wahabis.

Meaning of Sedition under sec. 124A of IPC,1860

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 shall be punishable with Life Imprisonment”.

Some activities which are Sedition in Nature

In India, what constitutes ‘Sedition’ is highly debated. As per the Indian Penal Code, for an act to be called “seditious”, it should have the following components:

  1. Any words, which can be either written or spoken or signs which include placards/posters (visible representation)
  2. Must bring hatred/contempt/disaffection against the Indian Government
  3. Must result in ‘imminent violence’ or public disorder.

As per the interpretation of the Court on Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 the following acts have been considered as “seditious”

  • Raising of slogans against the government – example – “Khalistan Zindabad” by groups. Raising of slogans by individuals casually once or twice was held not to be seditious. 
  • A speech made by a person must incite violence / public disorder for it to be considered seditious. Subsequent cases have gone to further interpret it to include “incitement of imminent violence”.
  • Any written work which incites violence and public disorder.

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