“We are proud to be Indians. We, however, have the right to criticise the Government. Criticism of the Government by itself cannot amount to sedition.” Justice Deepak Gupta.
ABSTRACT: Sedition is defined as the acts done to people against the Government of the state or the country, it is any act or speech which incites anybody to form of anti-national views or disrupt the public peace or harmony of the state. The punishment for sedition is harsh with minimum 7 years of imprisonment which may extend to life imprisonment. It’s a cognizable, non- bailable offence. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code says that the prosecution must prove that the intention of the accused is to bring into public disorder or excite any form of anti-national views towards the Government of India or State Governments in India. Sedition is a permissible restriction under Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution which states that a reasonable restriction may be imposed by the government.
In India, we all have the right to speak and express our views under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution, but this freedom is not absolute and there are reasonable restrictions imposed on us under the Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, that means that we can criticise our government within the specified restrictions, but we cannot bring about a hatred agitation or excite a war like situation. Thus for this, we have a law specified under the Indian Penal Code, which is Section 124(A):- As per section 124(A), whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection (any kind of disloyalty or enmity feeling) towards, the Government of India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with a fine, imprisonment may be extended up to 3 years. For example: If a person named A, who is an editor of a reputed newspaper daily called VOICE OF INDIA, publishes an article in the paper where he criticises the Government of India by mentioning that the government is doing insufficient works for the citizens of the Naxal affected areas in the Chattisgarh, So here the editor won’t be charged under the sedition, but the same editor if publishes an article stating that due to the insufficient works done by the government, the citizens of the naxal affected areas in Chattisgarh must unite with the Naxalites and pickup arms and start an armed rebellion against the Government of India, then the editor would be charged with Sedition for exciting disaffection among the people of that area against the Government of India. In the paper we will go through the punishments mentioned under the Sedition law, these are the punishment which are applied to one if he or she is accused of the Sedition, It also reviews about the things which is seditious in nature. i.e. the ingredients of the Sedition law in India. We can go through about the Indian Freedom Fighters, who were charged with Sedition and sentenced to jail during the Freedom Movement in India. We will next move on to see the defences available to the accused person if he is tried under the Sedition law and look into the NCRB data regarding the cases of Sedition registered in the coutry in the recent past. We would go through the Impact of the Sedition cases on the Freed of specch and its effects and at the last we would see the recent cases of the sedition including the Disha Ravi’s Case during the farm laws agitation in 2020. The last part includes the conclusion and suggestions. On the basis of the arguments presented, it offers a modified version of the sedition.
The proposed study would be in deductive reasoning of enquiry and adopts qualitative methods of approach including the data from the books, articles and websites for the research. This research paper is based on the doctrinal approach of research. It intends to rely on both primary literature as well as secondary sources which includes many books, articles from the internet and etc. REVIEW OF LITERATURE: 1) A Theoretical Analysis of the Law on Sedition in India written by Narayana Aishwariya and published in February 2015 at Christ Law Journal. In this Paper, the researcher explores the law on sedition under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The researcher seeks to propose an amendment to section 124A, by devising Austin’s Speech Acts Theory .
An Analysis of The Modern offence of Sedition written by Nivedita Saksena and Siddhartha Srivastava and published in October 2012 at the Manupatra Articles. In this paper, they make a case in favour of repealing the law of sedition. Through an examination of how the law has been interpreted and applied by the courts even after it was read down in Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar , it is argued that it is indeterminate and vague by its very nature and cannot be applied uniformly .
SEDITION U/S SECTION 124: 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 fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Explanation 1.— The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
Explanation 2.— Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section. Explanation 3.— Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section
PUNISHMENTS UNDER SECTION 124A : Sedition is a non bailable offence, they 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 person charged under this law can’t apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court as and when required What are the activities that are Seditious in nature: As per the Indian Penal Code, the essential ingridients of the Sedition or the components or which are required in order to constitute Sedition Law against an accused are:
1) Any words, which is generally written or spoken, or signs which include placards/posters or any visual representations.
2) It must bring about a hatred or contempt or an disaffection against the Indian Government.
3) It must result in an ‘imminent violence’ or a disorder in the society. The Honourable Court in its observations laid down the following acts have been considered in the sedition
The raising of slogans which is against the government by some people together or some particular group, is considered to be seditious where as raising slogans by individuals casually, without any ulterior motive once or twice isn’t considered to be seditious. 2) Speech made by a particular person, must incite violence in the society or create a public disorder or civil unrest, is also considered to be sedition. 3) It may also contain any written or graphical work which incites violence and creates public disorder is also considered to be as the prime reason for sedition .
HISTORY OF SEDITION LAW IN INDIA : Sedition laws are found in the following laws in India: i) The Indian Penal Code, 1860 Section 124 (A) ii) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 Section 95 iii) The Seditious Meetings Act, 1911 iv) The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (Section 2 (o) (iii)). Common to these laws is the idea of disaffection which we have inherited from the British. Disaffection has been defined as a feeling that can exist only between the ruler and people. The ruler must be accepted as a ruler. Disaffection is the opposite of that feeling, and manifests a lack of, or repudiation of acceptance of a particular government as ruler. The draft Constitution included sedition and the term public order as grounds on which laws limiting the fundamental right to speech (Article13) could be framed. However, the final draft of the Constitution eliminated sedition from the list of exceptions to the freedom ofspeech and expression (Article 19 (2)). The law of sedition was introduced by Sec. 124A of the IPC in 1870 as a draconian measure to counter anti-colonial sentiments, and most major leaders of the independence movement – including Gandhi and Tilak – were tried under this provision. Gandhi described Sec.124A as the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Indian Freedom Fighters, who were charged with Sedition and sentenced to jail, during the Freedom Movement in India: During the freedom struggle many of the founding leaders of the movement were subjected to the draconian law which was started by the British rule in India, right from the Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy in which the innocent people present in Jallianwala were subjected to intense firing under the command of General Dyer as they were suspected for sedition against the British Rule as they were suspected for creating unrest and creating a sense of anti colonial rule from the gathering in the Jallianwala Bagh for the Baisakhi Festival. In the biography of Mahatma Gandhi “The Story of my Experiments with Truth” he mentioned that during the freedom struggle, he was charged with the sedition, because he had written some articles in the journal called the Young India, and as a result he was sentenced to jail for six years for the above articles for sedition. He was held guilty for sedition for being disloyal towards the British crown also for trying to excite disaffection towards the British Government and trying to incite unrest in the British India for gaining independence. Another famous freedom fighter who was convicted and charged with the sedition was, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He was first convicted under sedition in 1897, when he in a speech for the Indian National Congress in a rally in Punjab had made some speech which indirectly incited violence and resulted in killing of two British police officials. He was again charged with the sedition, when he had written an article in his newspaper called Kesari. In it he wrote an article in which he supported the offensive acts being done by the Indian revolutionaries during that time, and demanded an immediate Swaraj or Self rule for India. As a result, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with sedition and was sentenced to a jail for a term of six years from 1908 to 1914 in Mandalay which was in Burma. Defences Available to a Person Charged With Sedition: In order to get exemption from the Criminal Liability from the Charge of Sedition, the following are the defences available: 1) That he did not make the sign or representation or not speak or write the words, or not do any act in question. 2) That he did not attempt or tried to contempt or attempt any sorts of disaffection towards the government and incitement of any kind of violence or any unrest. 3) Such disaffection or any kind of incitement of that kind should not be towards the Government of India or any public authority. National Crime Records Bureau (N.C.R.B) Statistics on Sedition Law Accused and Datas relating to the law: According to the data from 2013-2014 of NCRB, 582 people were arrested on the charge of sedition. During 2015, 1279 cases were reported under sedition. Of the total sedition cases, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have reported 135 cases and 103 cases respectively. Besides, many cases in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh were also reported during 2015. According to the NCRB, the latest crime data shows the cases of sedition rose from 2018 to 2019. More sedition cases were registered in 2019. Maharashtra topped the list for committing the crime against state including sedition. Of the 35 cases were registered in 2016, 8 cases were reported from Tamil Nadu, followed by U.P. 7 Haryana 4 and Assam 3 cases. In the last three years across the country, 45 people were arrested on the charge of sedition. According to the reports of N.C.R.B, 11 people were arrested in four states i.e., 6 in Bihar, 1 in Haryana, Jharkhand and Punjab. The Data from the National Crime Records Bureau’s recently-released Crime in India statistics for 2019 confirm observations that Ninety-three cases of sedition were filed in 2019, a 165% jump from 35 in 2016. and the conviction rate for the Sedition law in 2019 is up by 3.33% . While there is increase in sedition law cases across the country especially Kashmir, its conviction rate has been a 80% according to a study conducted after the removal of the article 370 and article 35A from the constitution by the government in 2019. Many leaders form Kashmir including the former CMs of Kashmir i.e. F. Abdullah, O. Abdullah, M. Mufti and other various leaders of Kashmir were put under house arrest under the suspicion of inciting violence and public disorder in order to protest the removal of the articles. Many people in the streets in order to protest the removal of the articles were slapped the Sedition Act under IPC Section 124A as a result we see the increase of 165% in the sedition cases in the country with the majority of cases coming from Kashmir Region.
While the data for the 2020 hasn’t been published by the NCRB, but its believed that the cases of the sedition is likely to increase many fold in this years data because of the unrest in the country because of the Anti CAA outrage in the country in the beginning of the 2020 and Anti Farm Laws agitation in the country in November 2020 where hundreds of people were booked under the Sedition. Sedition and its Impact on Freedom of Speech : Free Speech has in today’s world got recognition as the basic thing required by a human. In India, the right to freedom of speech is provided to us in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. In India Courts have been given power to act as the protectors of the rights of the citizen in India. The Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution secures the ‘freedom of speech and expression’ but it also lays down some limitation which has been lays down in Article 19(2) which states that the legislature can legislate any law which imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of right to freedoms conferred to us by the Constitution.
But the main thing in the new times is that the law has become pretty much synonymous with being anti-national in India, but the courts have to interpret it in terms of Article 19, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression but also provides riders. A senior justice in Supreme Court of India said that “We can protest, agitate against the government and criticize its policies but we cannot do those act it in such way that jeopardizes the functioning of the government or incites any kind of the violence which creates civil unrest in the Country.
The Supreme Court on numerous occasions in the past has ruled that raising slogans against the government or criticizing its policies is not sedition. In a case which was in 1962, the Supreme Court had ruled that a citizen of the country has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government, but saying that it is sedition is not expectable. So we see that this law often harms our legal right to freedom of expression, when often the government uses this law as the tool of oppressing the person who is trying to criticizing the government or any of its draconian rules or any draconian laws.
RECENT CASE OF SEDITION IN INDIA: DISHA RAVI CASE. The recent farmers protest in India had grabbed the international attention when 18-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and the famous American pop star Rihanna tweeted about it. Soon then then many social media influencers had started tweeting the alleged toolkit. Then the Cyber Crime cell of Delhi Police filed an FIR against the creators of a ‘toolkit’ that was shared by Greta Thunberg on Twitter and also on them who had been using it in order to protest against the farmer laws n the social media. The then Delhi special CP Praveer Ranjan said, “The unfolding of events over the past few days, including the violence of 26th January, has revealed copycat execution of the ‘action plan’ detailed in the tool kit”. On 13th February 202, Disha Ravi was arrested in connection to the aforesaid registered FIR. She was first taken to the Soladevanahalli police station in Bangalore for questioning in connection with the Toolkit. On Feb 14, 202, Disha Ravi was produced in court and was remanded to police custody for five days. Where she said that she was just supporting farmers digitally on the social media when she broke down into tears, she also said that she supported farmers because they are future of India and we all need to eat and for that we need our farmers. She also added that she was not the creator of the toolkit, and just made two small edits to it. Charges against Ravi included Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting hatred amongst various communities on social /cultural/ Religious grounds) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. She was also accused of having Khalistani connections as well as plotting to “promote disaffection against Indian state” .
CONCLUSION & SUGGESTION : Ever since from the time the law of sedition originated in England, there have always been discrepancies in its application with the application being uncertain and non uniform in all the cases. Initially, its application was kept uncertain as it was used for the oppression of masses as it suited the Government’s interests and undermined their authority. It was used as a weapon for the fulfilment of political motives by curbing the speeches which threatened the authority. The courts have also failed to give a clear and unambiguous interpretation of the offence. In the recent years, the application of sedition law was so arbitrary that it has become a matter of a great controversy. Indian society has developed at a high rate in the last 50 years and people have showed ‘tolerance’ towards what could be termed as ‘incitement to violence. The justification that it is applied for the maintenance of public also does not strong valid in the present day. Sedition is used to meet the local problems and the problems that broadly can be termed as defamation of the elected representative. The example of England should also be taken where it was abolished seeing it had become obsolete. Various other provisions address the offences related to public tranquility and can very well be applied. India today as a democratic state does requires to overthrow this narrow approach of not tolerating healthy criticism also and it is high time that legislature and judiciary come up with newer reforms that either scrap off the laws relating to sedition or amend it in such a way that it is no more arbitrary and can be applied uniformly. This rule of colonial regime should no more be used to curb the rights of the citizens in its present form. Every individual has a right to criticize the government in a democratic state and hence doing so should not be regarded as “anti national” and he should not be termed as a “traitor” as criticism is definitely not seditious as involves no incitement to violence. Criticism is the basis of democracy and hence sedition laws needs to be changed for the smooth functioning of the democracy.
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