Written by:Adv. Pooja Gupta

Section 124A Sedition Under IPC

Introduction of Section 124A Sedition under IPC and it’s Judicial Interpretation: – The U.k. enacted the sedition legislation in India, but between 1972 and 2009, the UK did not convict anybody on charges of sedition.

The Indian independence movement is linked with the background of the sedition legislation. Following the Government Of India act Revolt of 1857, the first attempt to issue criminal law in its present form was made. IPC Code was developed in 1860 as a result of the directions of the First Law Commission, which has been addressed by Lord Macaulay and formed in 1860.

There is no description of IPC (hence referred to as the Act) Section 124A, which dealt with the IPC’s sedition statute. In 1870, sedition was initially codified as a crime under the IPC’s Chapter IV, which deals with crimes against the state.

The first court case for sedition was held in the Bangabasi case of Queen v. Jogendra Chandra Bose (1891). For a long period of time, there’s been a vigorous dispute over whether Section 124A was misappropriated and whether it should be struck down as unconstitutional.

An Analysis of Section 124A of the IPC

Sedition is defined as an offence committed when a person attempts or causes hostility or dissatisfaction among the general public against the government through their statements, gestures, or actions. Sedition is defined as an offence committed when someone incites or seeks to stir hatred or contempt in others against a government that is constituted by law. It is required for viciousness to cause violence in the overall population.

The incitement can occur in the form of a speech, a message, a sign, or any other comparable form. When someone acts sedition, they can be sentenced to three years in prison, a fine, or both, or their sentence can be extended to life in prison, with or without a fee. The foregoing are the essential components of a sedition offence:-

  • Probably most important, the statements should be spoken or written, actions should be taken, or signs can be used.
  • It should provoke anger, contempt, dissatisfaction, or animosity towards the government among the general population.
  • Persons who commit acts of violence or urge others to commit acts of violence are key components of seditious activity. Using public disorder or violent demonstrations to incite people to reject or oppose the government’s actions is considered sedition.
Section 124A Sedition

Sedition’s constitutionality and legality

In Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha v. UOIS.C, will examine the legality of Section 124A, which penalizes sedition (2021) Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla, two Indian journalists, were accused of sedition for using words & photographs posted on social media. They’ve filed a writ petition questioning the constitutionality of Section 124A, which criminalizes & penalizes sedition.

Sec.124A can be used to combat anti-national, separatist, & terrorist elements, among other things. It safeguards the elected government against endeavors to disintegrate it through violence & law break means. Maintaining the legitimacy of the legally created government is a crucial prerequisite for a state’s unity. If contempt of court leads to criminal charges, then contempt of govt must lead to criminal charges as well.

Section 124A has been criticized on various occasions since independence, with the claim that it hinders our “freedom of expression”. Many in a secular & independent India that upholds democratic values have challenged the so-called “oppressive” relics of colonial power. As a result, some have claimed that the Indian Penal Code’s law is a violation of the country’s Constitution. Section 124A was found to be constitutionally valid in the leading case of Kedar Nath v. U.O.I (1962).

Kedar Nath  v. Union of India (1962)

The statute was found to be valid in this case, and it applied to any written or spoken remarks with the affirmative aim of evading the govt through violent methods, irrespective of their origin.

Individuals who criticize the government with the intent of causing public unrest are allowed to do that as long as they do not inspire others to challenge the government with violence.

While  Sc upheld Sec. 124A’s validity, it confined its purview to conduct involving the intention or tendency to cause a widespread commotion, disrupt law and order, or provoke violence, along with many other things.

According to the Court, the crime of “sedition” is the incitement to violence or even the tendency or willingness to affect public disturbance through words or conduct that have the possibility or implications of provoking disrespect or disaffection for the govt established by law, or of provoking discontent in the context of fear and mistrust forward towards the nation.

Section 124A of the IPC is Increasingly being Misused.

This is not unexpected given the extensive use of this statute in recent years, not only against reporters but also against other peaceful protesters. The state has a helpful weapon in the shape of legislation against sedition to maintain law and order in society. It cannot, unfortunately, be employed to suppress discontent under the pretext of putting criminals out of business. Any conduct that has the potential to provoke public disruption or distress through the use of violence is, of course, illegal.

As a consequence, even though there was no admonition, call, inciting violence, or provocation to cause disorder or disturbance of public peace by committing violence, or any indirect reference, unsubtle comment, or even any indication towards this goal attributed to the person accused, it is generally assumed that Section 124 A could be lawfully affirmed against the person. Invoking Sec. 124 A, in the perspective of many, is a highly sensitive matter.

Whenever anyone claims their right to freedom of expression, it does not mean that they are free to speak whatever they want to whomever. The right to vote has been subjected to an unfortunate but essential constraint. Those who abuse their freedom of expression by using it to separate others on the basis of religion or caste are misusing it. In a democratic country, it is important to limit one’s freedom in order to protect the rights of others.

People must exercise their freedom of speech and expression to the utmost extent feasible while still exercising it responsibly. Currently, the right to free expression is confined to speaking out against wrongdoing. It is being ruined by people who, in the name of freedom, promote misleading info. The freedom to free expression is a crucial weapon for creating changes and boosting the government’s misdirected operations. As a consequence of the spread of inaccurate information in the press, criticisms in the community are sometimes considered insults or defamation.

To prevent and control the spread of such erroneous and fallacious assumptions, that may have a negative impact on others, distribution limitations must be imposed.

Important judgments on sedition

There have been a number of notable cases that have influenced the reorganization of Sec. 124A over the ages.

The Queen-Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak

The rebellion of our country’s freedom warriors against colonial power is one of history’s best-known examples of sedition. In two instances, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a strong proponent of India’s freedom, was charged with sedition. It was initially given out in 1897 for comments that allegedly incited others to commit acts of violence, culminating in the deaths of two British authorities. He has been found guilty & released from jail in 1898, and in 1909, he was accused of seditious publishing in the publication he owned at the time, Kesari.

Sec. 124 A was defined and implemented for the very first time in 1897. As per the court, when it came to deciding the blame of a person accused of sedition, the incitement to violence and insurrection was inconsequential in the view of the ruling Privy Council. This situation exemplifies how the term “disaffection” must be construed. Hatred, disagreement, animosity, disdain, and any other forms of ill will against the government are all examples of dissatisfaction with the government.

Dr. Binayak Sen v. Union of India

Dr. Binayak Sen was convicted of sedition in Raipur’s Session Court for his engagement with the Naxalites, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was charged with aiding active Naxalites by sending text messages from one prisoner to another outside the prison. He claims that he’s always been supervised by a prison authority and also that doing something like that was never a possibility; instead, it was his resentment of Salwa Judum’s involvement in the deaths that led him to this point. The state govt, it was informed to me, was assisting this gang in their efforts to remove tribal land & mines for diamonds, bauxite, and iron ore.

Aseem Trivedi v. the State of Maharashtra

In 2010, Aseem Trivedi, a well-known political journalist & activist known for his anti-corruption movement & anti-corruption cartoons, was charged with sedition. He was granted bail the following year. Amit Katarnayea, a senior counsel for a Mumbai-based NGO, lodged a complaint.

Trivedi is arrested on charges of displaying ‘insulting as well as derogatory’ sketches of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption activism, such as one that depicted the Legislature as an abandoned building and another one that depicted the National Emblem in an inadequate sense by substituting the lions with wild creatures, and afterward uploading them to social networking websites.

Shreya Singhal v. Union of India

In this matter, the constitutionality of Sec.66A of the Technology and Information Act of 2000 was challenged, and it was ruled unconstitutional as a breach of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution Of India.

The Mumbai Police arrested 2 teen girls for posting comments on Facebook expressing their disappointment with the Shiv Sena-organized mass demonstrations following the death of Bal Thackery. Shreya Singhal filed an application in 2012 to amend Sec. 66A of the IT Act of 2000, asserting that it violated Art. 19(1) of the Indian Constitution.

The matter was finally decided in 2015 after three years of litigation, with a distinction drawn between “advocacy” & “incitement,” with only inciting a riot criminal under the statute. as per the court, nobody can be charged with sedition until they have a direct link to the commission of violence or the provocation of antisocial behavior.

Kanhaiya Kumar v. Delhi Municipal Corporation

Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested by the Delhi Police on Feb12, 2016, for breaching Sections 124A & 120B of the IPC. At the JNU gathering commemorating the hanging of Afzal Guru, he was accused of insulting the country’s dignity by chanting phrases that were disrespectful to the nation’s honor. Kanhaiya Kumar has denied all of the allegations, claiming that he said nothing seditious. His incarceration generated a political scandal in the United States, dividing leftists and rightists.

Kumar was fined Rs. 10,000 after the University initiated an investigation into the matter & initiated disciplinary action against the persons involved. The fine was later overturned by the Delhi High Court, which ruled that the committee’s judgment was “unlawful, inappropriate, and illegal.” The detention sparked a walkout, rendering the university’s administration inoperable.

Conclusion of the Section 124A Sedition Under IPC

India, as the world’s largest democracy, understands the value of freedom of expression & speech as a necessary element of a democratic republic. It must not be assumed that someone who speaks or believes something adverse to government policy is committed to sedition. “A statement of displeasure with the existing situations of circumstances cannot be characterized as sedition,” as the Law Commission declared, is right. There was not much of a distinction between both the pre/post eras in this nation when it comes to recognizing critical condemnation.

The need of protecting sovereignty and integrity is self-evident. It is unlikely that Section 124A will be abolished very soon, based on the particular assessment, and also the government is responsible for the law. The Section, on the other hand, shall not be used to suppress freedom of speech & expression.

Without a question, sedition is a divisive term that must be precariously balanced against our guaranteed by the constitution right to freedom of speech. Whereas no citizen must be allowed to promote unwarranted animosity among the public or to instigate violence and hatred against the govt (particularly in a country established on nonviolent), so each citizen must be allowed to openly and freely express their views on the government.

In some circumstances, Indian courts’ perspectives and how the law is applied are at odds, prompting some to call the law “restrictive” in its interpretation. It may be the appropriate time to consider amending this rule in an era when citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the laws & freedom of the individual, as well as a rising responsibility & duty in this democratic system.

Sedition is by far the most egregious violation of Article 19 which can be perpetrated. As a result, sedition provisions must clearly include content that accords with Art 19’s limitations (2). The goal of restricting freedom of speech under sedition laws is to protect the country and its citizens. The rules established by the Supreme Court for interpreting and enforcing sedition statutes should be codified.

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