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Offences Against The State

All states have the same right of self preservation as their subjects, and state like men have from the immemorial, enacted safeguards for their own preservation and protection There are some criminal activities that are directed against the existence of the state itself, that are treason, sedition and rebellion. To maintain peace, law and order in the society it is mandatory that whoever commits any crime against the state, he/she must be punished with a severe punishment so that it sets an example for others in the society as well.

To establish the supremacy of law and sovereignty of state it is important to punish those offenders whoever commits any kind of crime against the state. In the category of offences against the state the Indian Penal code provides certain categories under which an offence becomes an offence against the state. These mainly includes Waging War, Collecting Arms, Assaulting President or Governor and Sedition. These are some of the main categories under the offences against the state.

Offences Against The State:

Waging War:

Waging War means an attempt to fulfill any purpose or objective of public nature by using the means of violence. Such a circumstance or war occurs in a situation when several people rise and assemble against the state, in order to attain any object of the public nature by using force and the violence. In order to constitute any offence against the state, the purpose and intention are taken into consideration and not the murder or force used.

There is a difference between Waging War and Rioting:

  1. Where the rising is for general purpose and it directly strikes the government, then it is Waging War against the state. Whereas, if the rising is primarily to accomplish some private purpose, then it is termed as riot.
  2. Waging War is against the government of India, whereas, on the other hand Rioting is a crime against the public tranquility.
  3. Waging War is more serious crime as compared to rioting and Rioting us less serious crime as compared to Waging War.
  4. The number of persons in waging war us not specific, whereas the number of persons in rioting must be five or more.
  5. Waging war includes serious punishment but Rioting includes less serious punishment.

Waging War Against The Government Of India:

Section 121 to Section 123 of the Indian Penal code deals with Waging War against the Government of India. The phrase Government of India used here us used in a much wider sense. This expression signifies or means that although the state derives power of authority from Public International laws, however, such authority is vested by the people of the territory and is exercised by the representative government.

Under Section 121 of the Indian Penal code, the following are considered as essentials of the offences as they need to be proved in order to constitute an offence for waging war against the government of India:

The accused must have:
  1. Waged War; or
  2. Attempted to wage war; or
  3. Abbeted the waging of war.
Such a war must be against the state or the government of India.


The punishment under this section of the Indian Penal code includes either life imprisonment or the death penalty. A fine can also be imposed in certain cases.


The word whoever is used in a broader sense and is not only limited to the people who owe loyalty to the established government. Even the Supreme Court of India is unable to justify if the foreign nationals who enter into the territory of India for the purpose of disrupting the functioning of government of India should be held guilty under this section or not.

For example, in the case of Mumbai terror Attack, the very first offence committed by the appellant and other conspirators was the waging of war against the government of India. The attack was committed by the foreign nationals but it was committed upon India and Indians. There are several purposes behind this war like, to increase communal tensions, and most importantly to demand India to surrender Kashmir to Pakistan. Therefore under Section 121, 121A, and 122 of the Indian Penal code, the appellant was held guilty by the supreme court for Waging war against the government of India.

Waging War:

The tem Waging War must be understood in the general sense and can only mean waging war in the manner usual in war. It doesn't need or includes any kind of overt acts like collection of men, arms and ammunition. The inter-country war involving military operations between two or more countries is not included under this type of war.

War used under section 121 of this code, doesn't mean conventional warfare between countries, however, mere joining or organising an insurrection against the government of India is a form of war. Waging war is a means to accomplish any purpose of public nature by violence.


In the case of waging war intention and the purpose of committing the crime are considered to be the most important factors to be examined behind such aggression against the government. In this kind of war, murder and force are considered as irrelevant.

Sedition And Abetting War:

Section 124A of the Indian Penal code deals with the offence of sedition. This offence implies that the intention is to bring hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the government of India.

Abetting a war is a special type of offence. The main goal of such instigation should be necessarily waging of war. For example in Najot Sandhu's case, the appellant was a part of the criminal conspiracy and he was deemed to have abetted the offence. He is found in active participation in a series of steps taken for the purpose of the conspiracy. So, the judgement given by the High court was upheld and the appellant was convicted under section 121 of Indian Penal code.

Conspiracy to Wage War:

This section states that it is not necessary for any kind of act or illegal omission to take place explicitly in order to constitute a conspiracy.

This section deals with two types of conspiracies:
  1. Conspiring within or without India to commit any of the offences punishable by section 121.
  2. Conspiring to overawe by means of criminal force, or the show of criminal force against the central or any state government.

The expression 'conspiring to overawe government by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force' was interpreted by the Kerela High Court in Arbind vs. State. In this case, the court observed that the word overawe means something more than mere creation of apprehension, alarm or fear.

It connotes the creation of a situation in which the government feels itself compelled to choose between yielding to force or exposing itself or members of the public to a very serious danger. Therefore the slogan that the government can be changed by force, does not mean that a criminal conspiracy has taken place to change the government through force.

The punishment under this section includes imprisonment for ten years or life imprisonment and fine as well. Such punishment can be given by either of Central or State government.

Preparation to Wage War:

Section 122 of the Indian Penal code deals with the preparation of war.

Following are the essentials of this section:
  1. Collection of men, arms and ammunition.
  2. There must be an intention to wage war or make preparations to wage war for such collection.
  3. The accused must participate in the collection.
  4. War waged must against the government of India.
The punishment given under this section is either life imprisonment or imprisonment for ten years along with fine.

Concealment of Design of War:

Section 123 of the Indian Penal code deals with concealment of design of war.

The following are the essentials of this section:
  1. The existenc of a ddesign to wage war against the government of India.
  2. Such a design must be within the knowledge of the accused.
  3. The accused must have concealed that design.
  4. The concealment must have been intended to facilitate the design to wage war.

It was held in State vs. Navjot Sandhu that the accused had knowledge of conspiracy and plans of terrorists to attack Parliament House. His illegal omission to apprise police or magistrate of the design of the conspirators which is an act of waging war would make him liable for offence under section 123 of Indian Penal Code.

The punishment under this section is imprisonment of upto ten years along with fine.

Assaulting High Officials:

It is an offence committed against the President of India or the governor of any state. If any person assault or attempt to commit assault or wrongful restraint or attempts to restraint or use of criminal force or show of criminal force by the accuse, is punishable under this section of IPC.


Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code deals with Sedition. In this section any person who by:
  • Words; written or spoken or signs or Visible representations or otherwise
  • Bringing or attempting to bring into hatred or contempt or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the government of India.

These acts are punishable with:

  • Life imprisonment along with fine in certain cases. Or;
  • Imprisonment for upto three years along with fine in certain cases. Or;


Essential Ingredients of Section 124A:
  1. Words, Signs, Visible Representation or Otherwise:

    Sedition can be made in any of the above mentioned ways. Seditious deeds include publications, music, photographs, cartoons, sculptures, paintings and any other method. For Sedition it is not necessary that it only consist of written or spoken words but can also be of other kinds such as signs and by visual representation. For example, it can be evidenced by a woodcut or engraving of any kind.
  2. Brings or Attempts to bring into hatred or contempt:

    The words or expression ' brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt ' attempts to not interfere or to interfere less with freedom of speech.
  3. Excite Disaffection:

    The term disaffection includes disloyalty and various other feelings of enmity. In order to amount to Sedition, an act of disaffection must be excited among the people. In other words, the feeling of disaffection must be stirred among the people of the state.

According to this section, the disaffection can be excited in many ways:
  • Like Poem, Allegory, Historical or Philosophical discussion, Drama etc.
  • The offence under this section does not require an intention to incite violence, of public disorder.

In Bal Gangadhar Tilak's Case , it was pointed out that if, on reading the articles or speeches, the reasonable, natural and probable effect of the articles or speeches on the minds of those who read them or to whom they were addressed appears to be that feelings of hatred, contempt or disaffection, would be excited towards the government the offence is committed.

Government Established By Law:

This expression refers to the existing political system which includes the ruling authority and its representatives. In other words, we can say that, it refers to the people who are authorized by law to administer the executive government in any part of India.

The expression ' Government established by law in India ' includes the executive power in action and doesn't mean merely the constitutional framework. It includes the state Government as well as the Central Government.

Constitutional Validity Of Section 124a:

Some people believe that the provisions of this section would be held unconstitutional because they are volatile of Right of freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution. But in reality it is not considered to be unconstitutional.

In case of Ram Nandan vs. State of UP , the constitutional validity of Sedition was questioned at the very first time. In this case, the Allahabad High Court held that this section imposed a restriction on freedom of speech and expression and was not considered to be in the interest of general public. So, this section was considered as ultra vires to the constitution.

The above judgement of Allahabad High Court was overruled by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Kedar Nath vs. State of Bihar. In this case, court held that this section would only limits the acts involving an intention to create a disturbance of law and order. Thus in this case, Supreme Court held this section Intra Vires.

Several sections of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offences against the state. These sections of offences against the state play a very crucial role in regulating and maintaining public order. It is true that people of the state have a right to criticise the policies or law of the government, but they should not misuse their liberty to cause harm to the people around them or to the government.

Waging war against the government of India is a punishable offence. The law also protects the High officials of the state, such as the President of the country or the governor of any state in case of assault against them. Most importantly, the offence of Sedition is considered to be one of the most dangerous cognizable offences against the state.

Thus it can be rightly concluded that the State needs to restrict the freedom of the people of the country for the betterment of the state and to avoid violence against the state.

  1. The Indian Penal Code, 2019 by N.H. Jhabvala
  2. The Indian Penal Code, Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, 33rd edition.
  3. Indian Penal Code, By: Prof. S.N. Misra; Central Law Publications ; 18 th edition.

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