Vol 2/ Issue 2/ Dec 2016 [ISSN 2394-9295]
AmityAmity Law School, Noida (U.P)
Email Id: : email@example.com
Sedition is defined as the illegal acts done of inciting people against the government in power. Sedition is any act or speech which incites anybody to form of anti -national views against a government or is probable to disrupt the public peace or harmony of the state. punishment for seditious offences is harsh with minimum seven years of imprisonment which may extend to life imprisonment. It is a cognisable, non -bailable and non -compoundable offence triable by a Court Of Sessions. Section 124A of the Indian Penal codes is that the prosecution must prove to the hilt that the intention of the accused is to bring into hatred or contempt or excite any form of anti -national views towards the Government of India or Government of the State in India. Sedition is a permissible restriction under Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution which states that an reasonable restriction may be imposed by the government.
Key words:sedition, speech, disruption
The first impression of Sedition law came through during the period of colonial India, through Clause 113 in the Draft of the Indian Penal Code, which was proposed by Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1837. It laid down that seditious proceedings of all kinds were to be subject to official scrutiny within the ambit of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The first application of seditious law was in the Queen Empress Vs Jogendra Chundra Bose , wherein the accused Editor of ― Bangobasi a newspaper was charged with Sedition in the year 1891, for his criticism of the ―Age of Consent Bill in his article stating that the ―Age of Consent Bill ―was catastrophic to religion and was being forcefully imposed on Indians. The Privy Council later widened the interpretation pronouncing that any speech or writing which evinced disloyalty or ill feeling towards the government would fall under the domain of Sedition and persons guilty of such Seditious acts could be prosecuted and punished for committing the offence of Sedition. The main object of the colonial government was towards enactment of Sedition law to quell Indian freedom struggle and retain imperial power .During the freedom struggle, Sedition law targeted renowned nationalists like Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant and many others to curb and control the movement of freedom by the British government.
Under the Indian Penal Code, punishment for seditious offences is harsh with minimum seven years of imprisonment which may extend to life imprisonment. It is a cognisable, non -bailable and non – compoundable offence triable by a Court Of Sessions. The highly subjective nature of the offence makes it necessary that courts determine on a case -to-case basis if any threat is caused to the stability of the State or its democratic order.
Sedition law is not defined anywhere under the Indian Laws including the Constitution of India. However it has been the subject matter before Courts from time to time. In Brij Bhushan Vs State of Delhi , which is considered to be a landmark judgement for implementation and understanding and a turning point in the history of Sedition law in India it was held that ―The framers of the Constitution must have therefore found themselves face to face with the dilemma as to whether the word ―sedition should be introduced under Article 19(2) and if it was to be used in what sense it was to be used. On the one hand, they must have had before their mind the very widely accepted view supported by numerous authorities that sedition was essentially an offence against public tranquillity and was connected in some way or other with public disorder; and, on the other hand, there was the pronouncement of the Judicial Committee that sedition as defined in the Indian Penal Code did not necessarily imply any intention or tendency to incite disorder. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that they decided not to use the word ―sedition in clause (2) but used the more general words which cover sedition and everything else which makes sedition such a serious offence. That sedition does undermine the security of the State is a matter which cannot admit of much doubt. That it undermines the security of the state usually through the medium of public disorder is also a matter on which eminent Judges and jurists are agreed. Therefore, it is difficult to hold that public disorder or disturbances of public tranquillity are not matters which undermine the security of the State. Sedition is a permissible restriction under Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution which states that an reasonable restriction may be imposed by the government or the deemed authority against freedom of speech and expression under the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Sedition law is an punishable criminal offence under Section 124A of Indian Penal Code.
A person is entitled to form opinions and criticize about the ways and various polices of the Government of India, but this act is subdued under reasonable restriction that it shall not incite or inflame any person to express any anti national views or any form of violence against the government. If a person intentionally does incite a person or any form of violence against the government of India, it is considered as an act of Sedition. In the case Ramesh Thapar vs. State of Madras , the Hon‘ble Apex Court held that the act of criticising the government, exciting disaffection or bad feelings towards it is not regarded as a justifying ground for restricting the freedom of expression and of the press unless it is to undermine or overthrow the security of the state. Therefore the constitution requires a line to be drawn in the field of public order or tranquillity marking off maybe, the boundary between those serious and aggravated forms of public disorder which are calculated to endanger the security of the State.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code1860, lays down the concept of Sedition Law in India. One of the ingredients of Section 124A of the Indian Penal codes is that the prosecution must prove to the hilt that the
intention of the accused is to bring into hatred or contempt or excite any form of anti – national views towards the Government of India or Government of the State in India. The essence of the Law of Sedition is the intention with which the language is used by the accused, and what is rendered punishable under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is the intentional attempt, successful or otherwise, the arouse feelings against the government to bring the act under the ambit of Section 124A.Law of Sedition in India is substance based and the prosecution must necessarily prove that the intention of the accused was malafide and too induce anti -national views in the mind of the people of the country.
In Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India , the Supreme Court held that the freedom of speech and expression which is our fundamental right is not confined to geographical limitations, it carries with it the right of every citizen to gather information and to exchange thought with others, not only in India but abroad also.
The essence of Sedition Law in India under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is the language in which the speech is presented and the intention has to be judged primarily from the language itself to understand whether the speech or an act invokes anti national views in the mind of the public or not.
While forming an opinion as to the character of the speech or act charged with Sedition, the speech or an act must be looked at and taken as a whole, freely and fairly without giving undue weight to isolated passages and without pausing upon an objectionable sentence here or a strong word there and in judging of the intention of the speaker, each passage should be considered in connection with the others and with the general drift of the whole. The provision of Section 124A of The Indian Penal Code is very wide as well as strict; they cover everything that amounts to defamation of the Government or inciting anti -national views however excluding any criticism of the government which is in bona fide intention of any act or measures of the government. If the government of the state comes into the court and asks for a decision from a judge or magistrate whether particular conduct is or not within the terms of section 124A, the court must express a perfectly fair opinion as between the parties apart from its own ideas of political expediency. Unfortunately the terms of section 124A are wide and even generally regarded justifiable speeches would come within its terms.
The gist of the offence under section 124A merely lies in the intention of the writer to bring hatred and contempt against the government. It should not be gathered from an isolated work or sentence in a stray of passages without a fair reading of the whole article or speech as a whole and only thereafter a judgment must be pronounced whether this act or speech amounts to sedition under section 124A of the India Penal Code or not
.Any speech which suggests even generally that the government established by law is thoroughly dishonest and unfair and steps should be taken either by violence or by threat of violence to abolish it directly comes within the provisions of section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
In the law of sedition in India,it is considered irrelevant whether any outbreak of rebellion is caused by the publication of seditious material or speech or any act which is seditious in any manner. If the accused intended to cause any disturbance or incite the public with his anti -national views or an act which arouses anti -national feelings it will be an act of sedition.
In the famous case of Arundhati Roy and Others the accused were charged under Section 124A, 153A, 153B, 504 and 505. A FIR was lodged under a directive orders from the High court of J&K. It was alleged that
Arundhati Roy and others had made anti -national speeches at a conference and Arundhati Roy had shared the dais with Maoist sympathisers. Although Arundhati Roy was found held guilty for contempt of court
―scandalising its authority with mala fide intentions the Court however held that the prosecution had failed to Sedition against Arundhati Roy.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TREASON AND SEDITION LAW
Treason and Sedition law are generally considered to be similar in nature and are applied to cases individually or against organisations who have acted in defiance of establishment. The main difference between treason and Sedition law is that treason is a more grievous offence than sedition. Treason refers to the act of brazen defiance against one‘s own government in a bid to bring harm or to overthrow the government. If you owe alliance to your government but do something to overthrow the government or betray your state by harming its interests and by helping an enemy state, you are liable to be charged with treason whereas sedition prohibits the citizens from acting in a particular manner, through anti -national speeches or any act which incites people to have any anti national views. Therefore the basic and main difference between treason and sedition can be stated as the cause of action of the act.
CONVICTION UNDER SEDITION LAW
In order to convict a person under the law of sedition, it must be proved that the accused attempted or successfully brought hatred or contempt to excite disaffection towards the government of India or state or that such disaffection was towards the government established by law in the country. An accused person may be legally tried and convicted in one trial under sections 124A and 153 -A, of the Indian Penal Code.
In the case KedarNath Singh vs. State of Bihar , the accused Mr KedarNath Singh was charged with sedition under section 124A and 505 -(b) of the Indian Penal Code, and was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year on the grounds of antinational contents in his speech which were ―Today the dogs of the C.I.D are loitering round Barauni. Many official dogs are sitting even in this meeting. The people of India drove out the Britishers from this country and elected these Congress goondas to the gaddi and seated them on it. To -day these Congress goondas are sitting on the gaddi due to mistake of the people. When we drove out the Britishers, we shall strike and turn out these Congress goondas as well . In appeal by the convicted persons, the Court upheld the conviction and the sentence while dismissing the appeal. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which makes sedition an offence was held to be constitutionally valid.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal code however has taken care to indicate clearly that strong words under lawful means used to express disapprobation of the measures of the Government with the view to their improvement or alteration would not come within the ambit of the section. Similarly comments however, strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of the Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal. In other words disloyalty to Government established by law is not the same thing as commenting in strong terms upon the measures or acts of Government, or its agencies, so as to ameliorate the condition of the people or to secure the cancellation or alteration of the those acts or measure by lawful means that is to say, without exciting those
feelings of enmity and disloyalty which imply excitation to public disorder or the use of violence. In Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India , it was held that the freedom of speech and expression is not confined to geographical limitations, it carries with it the right of the citizens to gather information and to exchange thought with others not only in India but abroad also . Criticising and drawing general opinion against policies, administration and government decisions within a reasonable limit, which does not incite anti national views in the mind of the public, is permissible under the law on it.
RECENT CASES UNDER SEDITION LAW
In a recent event at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi anti national slogans were raised inside the campus in a protest against the execution of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and Kashmiri separatist leader Maqbool Bhatt, and for ―the struggle of Kashmiri people for their democratic right to selfdetermination . The students organising the event had pasted posters inviting people to gather for a protest march against the
―judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt. JNU student union President Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid were arrested on charges of sedition for organising an anti -national protest. The case is pending decision and is likely to clear the mist about Sedition Law and its application in the present times.
Amnesty International India in Bengaluru organised an panel discussion on the topic ― DENIED Failures in Accountability for human rights by security forces in Jammu& Kashmir ― the event involved discussions with families from Kashmir, who were featured in a 2015 report on the same and who had travelled to Bengaluru to narrate their personal stories of grief and loss. Among those who spoke at the event were the family of Shahzad Ahmad Khan, one of the men killed in the Macchil extrajudicial execution, where five Army personnel were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Further , an F.I. R was registered under the Indian Penal Code sections– 142 (being member of an unlawful assembly), 143 (whoever is a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), was filed by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organization affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party , which stated that Amnesty International India raised anti national slogans towards the end of the event . This matter is also pending decision and will throw light on the Sedition laws which many allege are outdated and somehow hit the principles of freedom of Speech in the Constitution of India.
Sedition law is a very crucial part of the Indian legal system, it is enumerated under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which states that 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 estab¬lished by law shall be punished. An accused may be convicted under sedition law only after the scrutiny of the cause of action takes place and it is held that such material or speech expressed anti national views against the government of India. An convict of sedition law shall be punished with imprisonment from 7 years upto life imprisonment. The essence of sedition law in India as under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is the language in which the speech is presented, the intention has to be
judged primarily from the language itself and it is considered irrelevant whether any outbreak of rebellion was caused by the publication of seditious material or speech or whether the seditious act was intended to cause disturbance or incite the public with anti -national views. It is of grave importance that while applying Seditious Law the line drawn by the rights of freedom of speech in the Constitution of India needs to be completely protected. Another aspect in respect of Laws of sedition having become irrelevant and outdated in the present time and need to be reworked and rewritten. Many Governments of the World have in fact removed Sedition as a crime from their Law codes. The Government needs thus urgently to see whether a law introduced by the British to curb our Freedom struggle is relevant in today‘s India. Surely the Court will pronounce to clear this cloud.
- Article 19 (2) of The Constitution of India ,1950 2. (1893) ILR 20 Cal 537
3. AIR 1950 SC 129
- Article 19 (2) of The Constitution of India ,1950 AIR 1950 SC124
- Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 6. AIR 1978 SC 597
7. Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National law journal – SEDITION LAW also see http://www.rmlnlu.ac.in/webj/sedition.pdf (last visited on15th January, 2017 )
8. AIR 2002 SC 1375
9. AIR 1962 SC 955
10. AIR 1978 SC 597
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