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What is Sedition Law?

Sedition, the simple meaning of the term is an act of the person either spoken by words or action which tends to bring the feeling of hatred in the minds of the general public, against the established sovereign authority (government) of the country.

Sedition is defined under Section-124A of the Indian Penal code as

124A Sedition- “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.”

Indian Penal Code

History of Section 124A i.e. Sedition law of IPC.

The law of Sedition was introduced in India by the United Kingdom in the year 1870, mainly to control Indians who used to speak against British rule. But the UK did not impose any of the sedition charges from the year 1972-2002 in its own state, and finally in 2009 sedition law was abolished by the state itself.

In 2020, the Sedition law has completed 150 years of existence in India, and since 2020, the sedition cases have raised with immense speed.

Before the “Revolt of 1857”, the Indian Penal Code was not there but after the codification of the criminal law, the 1st law of commission, which was headed by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay recommended and introduce the Indian Penal code.

Earlier, Sedition was not defined in the Indian Penal Code, but later after the amendment in the year 1870, Sedition law was introduced in chapter VI, Section-124A of the Indian Penal Code, Act.

Essentials to commit the offence of sedition law.

  1. Public Disorder

Any act which causes the feeling of hatred among the citizens of the country, against the established government and that hatred have turn out into public disorder to the general public, then we can say the offence of sedition is being done.

2. Violence

Any act of the person which causes violence in the society, then we can say the offence of sedition is done.

For example, In any of the political rallies if any of the people say something in against of the party and the public nearby believes it to be true, and in turn, start’s causing violence against the political members and against the society.

The violence can also be based on caste, religion, sex and creed. For example, if the person does not like any of the particular party members just because he/she belongs to that particular religion, the person can be charged for sedition as he/she has acted to cause the feeling of hatred among the people to cause damage in the form of violence against the member or to his/her people who belong to the same religion.

3. Any Act which threaten the state security

Any act of the person which results in fulfilment of the above essentials and because of it the security of the state is threatened then the person can be charged with the offence of sedition.

Important case laws to understand sedition better.

  1. Bangabasi case 1891– This is the 1st case on Sedition law which happen in 1891, where the editor of the Bangabasi newspaper, Mr Jogendra Chandra Bose was charged with the offence of sedition for challenging the age of a bill.

Here, it was held that he would apologize for his conduct as a way of compensation.

2. Bal Gangadhar Tilak 1897– Here, in this case, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with the offence of sedition for his speech which was against the British government. He was punished with imprisonment of 18 months.

3. Kedarnath v State of Bihar 1962– In this case the constitutional validity of sedition law was challenged. In this case, the government was criticized in a speech. here, the Supreme court said that Sec-124A of IPC which talks about sedition is constitutionally valid.

4. Balwant Singh v State of Punjab 1995- In this case, some people of the Sikh community organize a rally wherein they made a slogan “Khalistan zindabad” and made a constant repeat of the slogan.

But, here in this case it was held that they will not be charged with the offence of sedition because here the slogan does not make any of the “public disorder” and “violence” (essentials) in the society.

5. Shreya Singhal v Union of India 2015– In this case 3 concept was discussed.

Discussion
Advocacy
Incitement

Here, it was held that if these 3 concepts are involved in a matter then it will not amount to the offence of sedition.

Is sedition law misused in India?

Every citizen has an opinion on any matter whether it is related to politics or law. It is not necessary that every person has the same opinion on a matter, everyone can have a different opinion.

Accordingly, if a person has an opinion against the government on any of the matter whether favourable or unfavourable it should be considered, but the fact is if the person does not like any of the facts of the government he/she should make an appeal in a peaceful manner.

There are many rallies organized in past which demand there will in a peaceful manner, but when the rallies turn out in a violative manner then the offence of sedition is caused.

The latest example is the “Farmer Protest” which is taking place because of the 3 farm laws. In the ongoing protest, the farmers were peaceful in their protest. But during the ongoing tractor parade on 26 January 2021, the farmers turned violent and also caused public disorder in the National Capital of India.

At the time when they turned violent, they were charged with the offence of sedition and also they were termed as anti-national.

But there are times when the government had ulterior motives in imposing sedition law, which may borderline to abuse of power.

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Hi everyone, my name is Harpreet Randhawa, a law student who believes in sharing my opinions and spreading awareness on our law system. I hope you find my writing crisp and relevant.

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