SECTION 124A OF THE IPC- A TOOL OF APPROBATION AND CRITICISM, OR “ RAPE OF THE WORD ‘LAW’ ”? PART 2

The arguments for retaining Section 124A of the IPC are that they are essential in combatting anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.[1] However, to counter this argument, it has been put forth rightly that the government is using Section 124A to its advantage in order to silence all forms of criticism and political dissent, thereby protecting itself and establishing its stability. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 35 cases of sedition were reported in 2016, even though none of these cases involved violence or incitement to violence.[2] They were mainly about using S124A as a weapon to silence political opposition and dissent faced by the government.

In the recent years there has been a blatant disregard for the laws regarding sedition and the guidelines set by the Supreme Court regarding the same, because dissent and criticism- both of which are fundamental to a democracy, have been treated as sedition.[3] This was seen in the case of  Arundhati Roy (2010), Binayak Sen (2007), cartoonist Aseem Trivedi (2012) politicians Praveen Togadia (2003) and Simranjit Singh Mann (2005); when the Tamil Nadu police slapped sedition cases against those who protested against the Kundakulam Nuclear Project; and when in the name of curbing Naxalites, Tamil Nadu cracked down on civil liberties activists and agricultural labour which resulted in hundreds of people being charged with sedition.[4]

Ironically, the Congress government remained a silent spectator when the States were using S124A to their advantage, even though it was in their manifesto to do away with the Section altogether.[5] The current government is also taking full advantage and making more vindictive use of a law that the Congress party did not do away with when it should and could have.[6] Such instances bear testimony to the fact that no matter the government, it will always use this Section to its advantage and do anything to ensure its stability and power. Globally, sedition is increasingly viewed as an archaic draconian colonial law and was revoked in the United Kingdom in 2010.[7] There have been two attempts in India, via private member bills, in the last decade for revocation- both efforts were thwarted by governments; and even though in 2018 the 21st Law Commission of India issued a consultation paper asking for views on revoking sedition as an offence, the commission’s term ended before it could deliver its recommendations.[8]

Hence, the main issue with the Section is that governments use it to encroach on the Fundamental Rights of the people. The restriction should be ‘reasonable’, but in practice, governments during various time periods have grossly misused the section and widened its application, because of which there exists a ‘strained relationship’ between Section 124A of the IPC and Article 19 of the Constitution.[9]

Freedom of Speech and Expression is one of the hallmarks of a democracy, and every person has the right to express their views and opinions, for or against policies of the government. The people should have the power to criticise and approbate the government and its policies. The government encroaching on this right and regulating what can and cannot be opined, is a clear violation of one’s fundamental right. Even history bears testimony to the fact that this law is in fact oppressive and was used to silence opposing opinions. The fact that this archaic law is still in practice is both surprising as well as a reiteration and to a certain degree, re-institution of a repressive and oppressive government which acts against democracy.

When the overbreadth testis applied to this section, it is concluded that the section should be rendered unconstitutional because the word ‘dissatisfaction’ carries along with it a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty because of the vastness of its interpretation, and also because there is a haziness with respect to the practical applicability of this section.[10] Coming to the vagueness test, the individual is not aware of the articulation of S124A, what it seeks to condone and the consequences attached which leads to a negative externality- the chilling effect. [11] Life imprisonment as a punishment for the mere potentiality of inciting violence through speech seems to be superabundant, thereby fulfilling the chilling effect. [12] The misuse of such laws by the government proves that a ‘reasonable nexus’ is not always taken into consideration. Even though such tests are not taken into consideration in India, they do raise questions about the constitutionality and validity of S124A.

The law regarding Sedition has been framed in such a way that it subscribes to the ‘liberal autonomous approach’, but practical application of the laws have proved that a ‘moral and paternalistic approach’ is followed.[13] In such a scenario, it is only ideal that the section is declared unconstitutional, and the Freedom of Speech and Expression is given importance to. Furthermore, reasonable restrictions provided under Article 19(2), Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 Sections 121,122,123,131,141,143,153-A, Contempt of Court Act, 1971 and Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, provide more than enough safeguards for acts likely to come under Sedition.[14]

Hence, in the researcher’s opinion, Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code should be declared unconstitutional.


[1] Verma J, “A Critical Analysis Of Sedition Law In India – By Jatin Verma” (Jatin Verma’s IAS AcademyOctober 8, 2019) <https://www.jatinverma.org/a-critical-analysis-of-sedition-law-in-india&gt; accessed November 19, 2020

[2] ibid 20.

[3] Ramachandaran S, “Section 124A: The case Against the Much-Misused Sedition Law” [2020] Outlook<https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/opinion-section-124a-the-case-against-the-much-misused-sedition-law/347936> accessed November 19, 2020

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] Dantewadia P and Padmanabhan V, “Sedition Cases in India: What Data Says” (LivemintFebruary 25, 2020) <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/sedition-cases-in-india-what-data-says-11582557299440.html&gt; accessed November 19, 2020 

[8] ibid.

[9] Anurag A and Bahera DP, “Section 124A IPC- Where to Draw the Line” (SCC OnlineOctober 3, 2017) <https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2017/10/03/section-124-a-ipc-where-to-draw-the-line/&gt; accessed November 20, 2020 

[10] Kuthiala A, “Sedition and the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression” (SCC OnlineDecember 12, 2017) <https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2017/12/12/sedition-right-freedom-speech-expression/#_ftn9&gt; accessed November 20, 2020 

[11] ibid.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] Kaur P, “Sedition under Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code: An Analysis” (2019) 2 International Journal of Law Management & Humanities.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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