If you criticize any work of the Government is it your right to freedom to
express your views or it is an act of sedition against the Government? Confusing
right? With this question let us see as to what sedition is and what is the
major difference between it and the right to freedom to criticize the Government?
Sedition is an offence against the state; it is covered in the Indian Penal Code
as Section 124(which is now repealed). Any act or material which can bring
hatred, contempt, or disaffection against the Government and can ignite people
to commit the offence of violence or public disorder in the Nation is termed as
"Sedition". Critism or disapproval of the actions of Government is basically not
considered under the term "sedition".
The sedition law is heavily critized
because of its misuse to cut down the voice against the Government, it is
alleged that the sedition law hampers the exercise of freedom of Speech and
Expression by people.
History Of Sedition In India
In the 17th Century Britishers brought in the sedition law as they believe that
the Queen or King can do no wrong and hence only good opinion of the Government
should be accepted and survive and Bad opinion should be considered as
disrespect towards Government by its people.
It was the colonial rule of Britishers in India which brought in the sedition
law through Indian Penal Code in 1870, James Stephen, a British Historian
Politician brought in Section 124 by amendments when it was felt the need for
the specific section. Sedition is used as a weapon by the Britishers, any word
to word speaking against the Government would lead to charge of Sedition even
though no violence was followed. It was a tool to suppress voice against many
freedom fighters Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Shingh, Jawaharlal
Nehru and Many others.
It was then the scenario changed in the prominent case of Niharendu Dutt Majumdar and others Vs King Emperor (1942) the Frederal Court(the
highest authority in British India) interpreted sedition as an offence only when
it incites public disorder or violence. Aftermath in the case of King Emperor Vs
Sadashiv Naryan Bhalerao(1947) the privy council in United Kingdom rejected the
interpretation of Federal Court and stated that the application of sedition does
not require incitement of public disorder or violence.
After India got
Independence, the constitution assembly dropped sedition from the constitution
of India as it was a hindrance to reasonable restriction on Freedom of Speech
and Expression. In 1951, the 1st Amendment put some reasonable restriction on
Freedom of Speech and Expression by adding "Public Order" in Article 19(2).
Later the Indira Gandhi Government made Section 124A a cognizable offence by the
Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.
What constitutes sedition?
Now here stands a question as to what are the constituents of sedition.
Sedition must be summarized into the following points:
Punishment for sedition:
- There must be words, written or spoken, signs, Visual representation or any such act;
- Such an act should bring or attempts to bring hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection;
- Such hatred, contempt, or disaffection must be towards on Government, establishes by law in India and;
- It must have led to the incitement of violence or public disorder.
The Present Scenario and Recent Developments:
- Under Article 124A, punishment of the sedition can be:
- Imprisonment for up to 3 years.
- Imprisonment for Life.
- Imprisonment for life along with Fine.
- Imprisonment for up to 3 years along with Fine.
- Only Fine.
In August 2023, during the Monsoon Session of Parliament of India, the centre
replaced the Indian Penal Code. The Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the
Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill to Lok Sabha on the final day of the Monsoon
Session. The Bill replaced 124A of the IPC by Section 150 of the new bill.
Section 150 of the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita avoids using word "Sedition"; instead
it describes the offence as "Soverginity, Unity and Integrity of the India". Now
Parliamentary Committee will be setup to scrutinize the bill.
What the Section 150 say?
The Centre has now replaced the word "sedition" the Article 150 of the Bhartiya
Nyaya Sanhita which stats that "whenever, purposely or written, or by signs , or
by visible representation or by electronic communication or by use of financial
means or otherwise, excites or attempt to excites, succession or armed rebellion
or subversive activities or endangers soverginity or unity and integrity of
India; or indulges in or commit any such act shall with imprisonment for life or
with imprisonment which may extent to 7 years and shall also be liable with
Every nation apart from giving rights to citizen needs tough law to maintain law
and order in the society. Sedition is one of the law but we are in 21st Century
and in a democratic structure of Government and in democracy the law of the
Nation and people of the Nation are supreme and we cannot prioritize between the
two as both goes hand to hand, it is the Government and the Judiciary that have
to collectively decide the distinction between what would be termed as sedition
and what is Freedom of Speech for citizen to replicate the misuse of the law by