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Does The Section 124A Of The IPC Satisfies The Golden Triangle Test Under Article 14 19 And 21 Of The Indian Constitution

The golden triangle of our Constitution is composed of Articles 14[1], 19[2], and 21[3]. This was precisely observed in the case of T.R. Kothandaraman v. T.N. Water Supply & Drainage Board, {(1994) 6 SCC 282}.They’re a triangle because they need to be read together; the triangle is golden because they’re important to the protection of freedoms and prevention of government capriciousness and arbitrariness.

The scope of articles 14, 19, and 21 were first challenged in cases such as Bacchan Singh V/s State of Punjab, Kanhaiyalal V/s UOI, and in the recent major cases like the Sabarimala verdict, the Aruna Shanbaug case, the surrogacy bill, and such endless scenarios.

Section 124A, Sedition, as the Indian Penal Code defines:

is an attempt to bring hatred or contempt, or disaffection against the Government established by law in India. This can be done by words, signs, or any kind of visible representation. So, if any person promotes hatred or contempt towards the State he/she is committing sedition.

In Romesh Thapper v. State, it was held that the limits set out under Article 19(2) are very narrow and stringent. In Tara Singh v. State, the East Punjab High Court held that section 124-A has no place in a new democratic setup and it curtailed the freedom of speech and expression. By virtue of the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 two major changes were made to the freedom of speech and expression. First, more grounds were added as restrictions to free speech, and secondly, it imposed that restrictions must be reasonable.

Section 124A does not violate Article 14,19 or 21:

It can be said that Section 124A is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. When a statute is impugned under Article 14, it is the function of the court to decide whether the statute is so arbitrary or unreasonable that it has to be struck down. The mere factor that some hardship or injustice is caused to someone is no ground to strike down the rule altogether if otherwise, the rule appears to be just, fair and reasonable, and not constitutional.

The test of arbitrariness lies in whether the provision is reasonable, and whether there is a nexus between the restriction imposed by the provision, and the object sought to be achieved by it. Section 124A imposes a restriction on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression in the interest of the security of State and for maintenance of public order. Therefore, Section 124A does not violate Article 14.
Section 124A is a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

There cannot be any such thing as absolute or uncontrolled liberty wholly freed from restraint for that would lead to anarchy and disorder. Article 19 gives a list of individual liberties and prescribes in the various clauses the restraints that may be placed upon them by law so that they do not conflict with public welfare or general morality. While it is necessary to maintain and preserve freedom of speech and expression in a democracy, so also it is necessary to place some curbs on this freedom for the maintenance of restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression in the interest of the state.

In Santosh Singh v. Delhi Administration (1973 AIR 1091, 1973 SCR (3) 533), it was held that the test of reasonableness of restriction has to be considered in each case in the light of the nature of the right infringed, the purpose of the restriction, the extent and nature of mischief required to be suppressed and the prevailing social order and conditions at the time. There can be no abstract standard of reasonableness and our Constitution provides reasonably precise general guidance in that matter.

For example if a standup comedian exhibits cartoons insulting the integrity of India which would fuel tension in the citizens. The freedom of speech and expression has some reasonable restrictions.
In Das Rao Deshmukh v. Kamal Kishore Kadam (1996 AIR 391, 1995 SCC (5) 123), the Supreme Court held that distributing and provoking content amongst the people was likely to cause disharmony and hatred.
The right of life and liberty so guaranteed under article 21 subject to the rule of proportionality. Where individual liberty comes into conflict with an interest in the security of the state or public order, the liberty of individual must give way to the larger interest of the nation.

We can say that these three articles play a major role in the operation of our judicial system and affect our day to day lives, they also have an impact on our rights as citizens in this society, but without the reasonable restrictions these can be harmful to the integrity and security of the nation & Section 124A works on the basis of reasonable restrictions.

Lastly, we can say that section 124 A of the IPC satisfies the golden triangle test under articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian constitution.

  1. Article 14 – Equality before the law, the state shall not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of law within the territorial limits of India or prohibition on the grounds of race, caste, religion, sex or place of birth.
  2. Article 19 provides freedom of speech which is the right to express one's opinion freely without any fear through oral / written / electronic/ broadcasting / press.
  3. Article 21 - Protection of life and personal liberty, no person shall be deprived of his personal liberty except according to the procedures established by law

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