The law of Sedition is defined in 124A of the Indian Penal Code and it was introduced and drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1890.
Sedition was introduced by the UK government initially and later was adopted by other countries.
Sedition is defined as an offence against government which is committed when any person by words,either spoken or written or by signs or pictorial representation or otherwise bring into hatred or contempt,or excites or attempts to excite hatred or disaffection against the government .
This law was brought by the British Raj as a tool to curb people from protesting and spreading hatred against their government so that they could gain control over the people and economy and stop Indian revolutionaries from raising their voiceTwo essentials were considered while charging a person for sedition in earlier times
Later the definition was narrowed and interpreted as any act that threatened the security of a country was considered sedition.
Many leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi,Bal Gangadhar tilak were arrested under this law and their voices were suppressed.
The Constitution of India guarantees people the rights of freedom and expression.According to Mahatma Gandhi sedition law is a prince among the political sections of the IPC which was designed to suppress the voice and liberty of citizens.
Many people were deprived of their right to freedom and expression and they were suppressed , silenced and jailed under the ambit of this law. The government has been using this law as a tool against those passing dissent views and criticising the government and their policies.
Sedition is a non bailable offence in which a person can face a minimum of 3 years imprisonment which can extend to imprisonment for life and fine.People who are booked under this section are not only deprived of having a passport but also banned from enrolling themselves in a government job.
This law has been in a lot of controversy recently, after the the Supreme court reiterated the fact that speaking against government policies which were not good would not amount to sedition .Many people in recent times such as Khaniya Kumar, Arundhati Roy, Assem Trivedhi, Dhaval Patel, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi were charged under this law.
Pros of sedition law :-
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- Sedition law helps to combat anti national,secessionist and unnecessary chaotic terrorist elements.
- It protects the elected government from being overthrown by violence and illegal means by others.
Why amending or repealing sedition law is necessary.
- Sec 124A constrains the legitimate exercise of right to freedom and expression under article 19 of the constitution.
- Dissent and criticism are vital if people aren’t happy with the functioning or policies which have been implemented.It helps to create a robust vibrant democracy that is established for its people.
- The Britishers who introduced and implemented the law of sedition have themselves abolished this law in their country.
- The sedition law is widely misused as a tool to dilute and prosecute political dissent.
- India ratified its international covenant on civil and political rights in 1979 which protected the rights of freedom and expression internationally.However slapping of unwanted aribitatary charges of sedition on people who try to voice their opinion against the government proves contrary to the rights and international commitments made by India.
Some example of seditious cases and judgments passed on sedition law
1.Bal gangadhar Tilak case 988
Bal Gangadhar was charged under the sedition law twice, for publishing articles against the government in his newspaper kesari. This was an example of egregious misuse of powers of this law given to the government that succeeded them in suppressing him and violating his rights.
2. Kedarnath vs State of Bihar-
As cases started rising in India the constitutional validity of sedition law was challenged.This case upheld the constitutional validity of sedition.It limited its application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder or disturb law order and incite violence.
3.Shreya Singhal case
Three important concepts were enumerated in this case and ruled that mere advocacy or discussion would not be considered as sedition.
4.Brij Bhushan vs the state of Delhi AND Thapper vs the State of Madras-
In the above mentioned cases the SC cited that a law that restricted speech on grounds that it disturbed public order was unconstitutional.
This led to the 1st constitutional amendment,where article 19was rewritten to be replaced with words in the public interest of public order.
Article by Apurva Surve – Intern