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Sedition Law: Vexed Yet Pivotal

Freedom of Speech and expression is a hallmark of democracy. It is Sine Qua Non for the democratic edifice.

India ratifies the International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights (ICCPR) which internationally recognized the standard for protection for freedom of speech and expression.

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression under article 19 (1)(a) to its citizens but this right is not absolute and is trussed up with reasonable restrictions under article 19(2) ,of which sedition laws are an implied facet.

Proponents of Freedom of Speech and expression are often found to be in loggerheads with sedition laws.

Brief Overview Of Sedition Laws
According to (Bloomsbury Dictionary of Law ), Sedition means the crime of doing acts or speaking or publishing words which bring the royal family or government into hatred or contempt and encourage civil disorder.

Sedition is based on the principle that every state, whatever its form of government,has to be armed with the power to punish those who by their conduct jeopardize the safety and stability of state or disseminate such feelings of disloyalty as to have tendency to lead to the disruption of state or to public disorder.

The very existence of the state will be in jeopardy if the government established by law is subverted hence continued existence of government is an essential condition for the stability of the state.

The sedition laws are contained in section 124A of IPC, section 153A of IPC and in other statutes.The general statement of sedition can be well understood from section 124A of IPC.

Essential Ingredients of Section 124A of IPC:
  1. Bringing or attempting to bring into hatred or contempt, or
  2. Exciting or attempting to excite disaffection against Government Of India
  3. Such act or attempt may be done by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation, or otherwise and
  4. The act must be intentional.
The word sedition does not occur in the body of section 124A (IPC).It is only a marginal note which is not an operative part of sedition.

Position Of Sedition Law At Colonial Era
Treason Felony Act 1848 (operating in British ) and Common Law Of Seditious Label asserts their position as provenance of Section 124A (IPC).

Section 124A (IPC) was originally section 113 of Macaulay's draft penal code 1837, but for some unaccountable reasons it got omitted.Later it was added on suggestions of Sir James Fitzjames Stephens ,titled as "Exciting Disaffection".

The prominent reason of its inclusion in penal code was the threat due to Wahhabi activities between 1863-1870 which was aimed at reviving Muslim power in India by overthrowing British.

Section 124A (IPC) was obnoxiously used as an armament to suppress the freedom struggle, its vicious misuse attracted earsplitting whine,some of the prominent precedents were QE V. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Niharendu Majumdar V. Emperor and Emperor V. M K Gandhi.

Development Of Section 124A (IPC) After Independence
Post independence Sedition was a part of Draft constitution as a reasonable restriction on article 19 but it was objected by stalwarts like K M Munshi which results in its omission from the draft constitution but it managed to retain its existence in the Indian penal code.

In 1962 with the blessings of kedar Nath V. State Of Bihar its constitutionality vis-a-vis article 19 was upheld, this precedent clears that section 124A (IPC) aims at rendering penal, only such activities as would be intended,or have tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence.

The precedent states that law steps in to prevent pernicious activities in the interest of public order and section 124A (IPC) strikes the correct balance between individual's fundamental rights and the interest of public order.

In 1971, 42nd report of Law Commission of India proposed various amendments in section 124A (IPC) in view of its lacunae and the controversy raged around it.

Section 124A ( IPC ) is strongly mooted by its detractors as a decrepit colonial law but above given post independence Developments shrieks that section went through the process of Indianisation, which proves unremitting voice accusing it of colonial demeanor to be a complete farce.

Current Scenario Of Sedition Laws
India is on a verge of unprecedented internal and external challenges due to difficult neighbourhood. Exigencies of national security and public order places the importance of sedition laws at lofty perch.

No doubt section 124A (IPC) is a legatee of atrocious history which results in its blistering aversion.Allegations against Sedition laws of being noxiously misused against article 19(1)(a) are at proximate vicinity to its reality.

Obfuscate terms like hatred and disaffection combined with extremely low conviction rate placed it into the position of eclectic notions.Most luminous clamour is of its repeal,the malady of malicious misuse of a provision is of a matter of concern but repealing the provision would not be a panacea for it.

Section 295A (IPC) and section 498A (IPC) are also misused to a greater extent. The hon'ble Supreme Court in Sushil Kumar Sharma V. Union of india even stated that"By misuse of the provision (498A IPC), a new legal terrorism can be unleashed."

The fact that if any provision is often misused,it does not lead to its repeal.Rather advocating for its repeal, concerned authorities shall focus on herculean measures against its obnoxiously noxious misuse.

Adequate and uniform guidelines shall be issued at national level regarding implementation of sedition laws. Law enforcing agencies should be educated and shall be held accountable for their ailing performance .

Current national atmosphere bolster section 124A (IPC) as an imperatively pertinent provision .So the idea should be to amicably reform the sedition laws with improving its application and endeavour to make it a patently reasonable restriction under article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

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