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Sedition – Section 124A IPC

  • Section 124A defines the offence of sedition.
  • The section deals with the offence of sedition, a term that covers speech or writing, or any form of visible representation, which brings the government into hatred or contempt, or excites disaffection towards the government, or attempts to do so.
  • It is punishable with three years in prison or a life term.

Meaning of Disaffection

It includes disloyalty and feelings of enmity.

The courts have defined disaffection as follows:

  1. The meaning of disaffection is contrary to that of affection, i.e. dislike or hatred.
  2. It means hatred, enmity, hostility, contempt and every form of ill-will to the government.
  • It symbioses political alienation or discontent.
  1. It is a positive political distemper, and not a mere absence or negation of love or goodwill.

What is its origin?

  • Sedition was introduced in the penal code in
  • It was a colonial law directed against strong criticism of the British administration.
  • Its most famous victims included Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi.

What constitutes sedition?

The following ingredients u/s 124A constitute sedition:

  1. Bringing or attempting to bring into hatred.
  2. Exciting or attempting to excite disaffection against the Government of India.
  • Such act or attempt may be done (a) by words, either spoken or written, or (b) by signs, or (c) by visible representation.
  1. The act must be intentional.

Why sedition act should be abolished?

  • The section has been found by the courts to be defective because the pernicious tendency or intention underlying seditious utterances have not been expressly related to the interests of integrity or security of India or of public order.
  • Another lacuna, as pointed by the Law Commission of India, is that the definition of sedition does not take into consideration disaffection towards (a) the Constitution, (b) the legislatures, and (c) administration of justice, all of which would be as disastrous to the security of the State as disaffection towards the executive Government

Is it constitutionally valid?

  • Two high courts had found it unconstitutional after Independence, as it violated the freedom of speech and expression.
  • The Constitution was amended to include ‘public order’ as one of the ‘reasonable restrictions’ on which free speech could be abridged by law.
  • It limited its application to acts that involve “intention or tendency to create disorder” or incitement to violence.
  • Thus, even strongly worded remarks, as long as they do not excite disloyalty and enmity, or incite violence, are not an offence under this section.

Some Famous Sedition Trials:

  • It is accepted that the first time, the act was invoked, was against Jogendra Chandra Bose, the editor of Bangobasi, for voicing against Age of Consent Bill, 1891.
  • Bal Gangadhara Tilak. First in 1897 for exhorting to act against Rand, the Plague Commissioner. Second in 1909 in respect of certain articles published in the “Kesari” in May and June 1908, for which he was deported to Mandalay.
  • Mahatma Gandhiji in 1922, for three articles published in the magazine Young India.
  • Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, 2011. He was arrested in Mumbai under IPC Section 124 (sedition), section 66 A of Information Technology Act and section 2 of Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act. The Kanpur-based artist had been accused of putting up banners mocking the Constitution during a rally of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai and posting the same on his website.
  • Dr. Binayak Sen was accused of sedition by the Chhattisgarh government in 2011. An Indian paediatrician, public health specialist and activist, Dr Binayak Sen is the national vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. He was accused of acting as a Maoist messenger
  • Arundhati Roy, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others were booked on charges of sedition by Delhi Police for their “anti-India” speech at a seminar in 2010, for advocating independence for the disputed Kashmir region.
  • Praveen Togadia was in 2003 slapped with the charge of sedition by the Rajasthan government. The charges include an attempt “to wage a war against the nation.”
  • Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar, was arrested from Sangrur district of Punjab in connection with four different cases of sedition registered against him. Mann had raised pro-Khalistan slogans on June 6, 2005 in the golden temple complex on the 21st anniversary of Operation Blue Star.
  • Latest case against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar.