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History Of Sedition Law In The Republic Of India And Its Implications In The Modern Times

History Of Sedition Law

Draft Provision in 1837
Thomas Macaulay presented the idea of sedition through his draught proposal in the year 1837, which was advanced in and by the British in British Colonial India. In 1834, Macaulay accepted a request to serve on the recently established Supreme Council of India, believing that he could use the money he would receive as compensation to acquire a talent that would last a lifetime. He created a reformatory code that eventually became the IPC, the cornerstone of Indian criminal law.

This Sedition arrangement was included in the preliminary readings, research, and writing of the Indian Penal Code, making it one of the earliest laws implemented during the frontier era. Proviso 113 of the Criminal Code described the dissidence law as a crime. The purpose behind its fuse in the draft was the expansion in renegade by the Indian progressive against the organization rulers.

The Sedition law was not the solitary law which was passed by the Britishers to stifle the voices of Indian progressives. Different laws, like Vernacular Press Act, 1878,(repealed 1881), the Newspapers Act, 1908, and the Indian Press Act, 1910(repealed in 1921) gave lawful support to the British government to limit the voices that conflicted with it. However for the limit of this task, we will be adhering to the Sedition Law.

Indian Penal Code Definition
Indian Penal Code defines sedition in the following manner:
Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Explanation 1:
The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.

Explanation 2:
Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

Explanation 3:
Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

As per the given definition, it was made clear that the law of sedition had two major components, these two major components were taken from the main definition of Sedition where it was mentioned that:
  1. Sedition contains three actions, namely, an act, conduct or a speech. Any of these actions, when performed against the state or the government were made punishable.
  2. All these actions were intended to incite people to rebel against the state, government or the nation.
  3. Pre - Independence Sedition (Bal Gangadhar Tilak Case)

Since the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was first introduced in 1860, there have been significant long-term developments in India's law regarding free speech. Perhaps the most prominent historical examples of seditious behaviour are our political opponents of pilgrim authority in the country. Promoter of businesses Bal Gangadhar Tilak on two occasions, was charged with sedition and dissidence.

The initial in 1897 for speeches that allegedly inspired others violent behaviour, which led to that two British diplomats had died. In 1898, he was charged and released on bail. He was again charged in 1909 for writing rebellious articles in his newspaper Kesari. Tilak received a year and a half in prison for inciting people to rebel against the British. Mohammed Ali Jinnah first provided Tilak with protection, followed by Joseph Baptista and then, when no one else was there, a volley of instructions.

The hearings judge was really DD Davar, Tilak's choice for the 1897 preliminary. Three years in each section of Tilak's six-year sentence of transportation to Burma. Baptista's request for a leave of interest in the privy Council on behalf of Tilak was denied.

Tilak executed his penalty, which resulted in his simple detention in Mandalay, and eventually returned to India with a significant impact on the nation's political difficulties. Bal Gangadhar Tilak had to deal with dissidence accusations even though he hadn't intended to make an insubordinate statement; instead, he was merely conveying a message of opportunity and freedom that had been construed in an unfavourable way.

Present Scenario
  1. Post Independence Sedition Law
    The debates in the founding assembly reveal that the sedition provision under Article 13 was not woven into the Constitution because the framers saw it as a limitation on the freedom of speech and expression, but it still exists in the penal code today.

    During the discussion, Shri K.M Munshi said that:
    "The sedition law is not made an offence in order to minister to the wounded vanity of Government. Public disorder is the gist of the offence. The acts or words complained of must either incite disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that is their intention or tendency".

    Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru discussed the law of sedition in his 1951 speech introducing the first Constitutional Amendment Bill, emphasizing how offensive it was and had no place in any body of laws. The Sedition Law was preserved as one of the tools to provide "reasonable restriction" on the Fundamental Right to Free Speech and Expression, under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, after all the contentious talks in the Cabinet Meeting of 19461948.
     
  2. Article 19(2) and its implications regarding Sedition
    In the Kedarnath Case5 [Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar, 1962 AIR 955], where the Supreme court examined the constitutional validity of Section 124A, the court had occasion to consider the extent of the subversive effect. to call Based on the fact that the word rebellion does not appear in Article 19 (2) or in the reasonable limitation provision, a court could confirm 12A only if it falls within the scope of public policy.

    Thus it was rightly concluded that the word 'sedition' is interpreted only in cases related to 'public order'. However, because public policy is inherently a very subjective matter, there are many situations where both sides can take advantage of the Sedition Act.

    The "reasonableness" of punishments and sanctions under Article 19(2) has always been a hotly debated topic, and in most cases the argument has invariably gone the wrong way. Let's take a closer look at the misuse of sedition laws in India and compare it from the perspective of the government and the general public.
     
  3. Sedition Law Abuses
    Just skimming the relevant portion creates a nebulous impression. The phrase "attempts or excites disaffection towards the Government" is inherently ambiguous and open to various interpretations by both courts and investigating officers. The discrepancy between the words "disaffection," "contempt," and "hate" still exists, which is the issue.

    By expanding the meaning of such obscure terms to include anything, there is sufficient opportunity for their heinous misuse. Even though the section's explanation states that statements that express disapproval of government action-administrative or otherwise-without inciting hatred or contempt do not constitute sedition, we continue to see such egregious abuse of this provision.

    In the 1995 case Balwant Singh v. Union of India, the court firmly stated that not all criticism constitutes sedition and that the true motive of the statement must be taken into account before labelling it as such. In this case, the court declined to punish the defendants for using anti-state slogans such as "Khalistan Zindabad" since they did not pose a threat to the government or foster animosity between any religious groups.
     
  4. Binayak Sen Case (Landmark Bail)
    Sen was detained in Bilaspur on May 14 on suspicion of acting as a messenger between politician and jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Guha, who was also suspected of having ties to the group. Sen visited Sanyal, 70, 33 times while he was imprisoned in Raipur, though each visit required prior police authorization. According to reports, the Chattisgarh police also used some electronic records to prove a connection between Sen and the Naxalites.

    These documents, photographs, and magazine covers were discovered at Sen's home, where, in his own words, he was conducting research on Naxalite behaviour. In 2010, the Judicial Authorities imprisoned Binayak Sen for having Naxal material in his hands as well as for his alleged involvement with Naxalites in the state's ruling government. He was released from prison after several months and was given bail by the Supreme Court.

    No precise justification for the order was provided, but Justice Sinha's famous comment that "merely owning Gandhian books won't make you a Gandhian" is still fresh in the minds of many who dispute the Sedition Law. Similar to this, simply owning Naxal literature will not turn you into a Naxalite. This claim was sufficient to establish a new standard for interpreting and adjudicating the puzzling cases of sedition in our nation.

Landmark Cases And Events Of Sedition (Modern Era)

  1. Kanahiya Kumar Case (JNU Sedition Event)
    On February 9, 2016, several Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students demonstrated on their campus in opposition to the execution of Kashmiri separatist Maqbool Bhatt and Indian Parliament attack suspect Afzal Guru. Former Democratic Students' Union members were the event's organisers (DSU). The university administration withdrew approval for the programme moments before it was set to begin, despite concerns from ABVP student union members. At the occasion, disputes arose between numerous student organisations.

    The people in the video, which was released by the Indian news portal Zee news, were guests to the university who were hiding their identities, according to an investigation.They were yelling "anti-India" chants. A large number of people, including politicians and JNU students, disagreed with the chants. Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNUSU, was detained by the Delhi Police under section 124 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1860, on suspicion of sedition and criminal conspiracy.

    Five more students-Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Rama Naga, Anant Prakash, and Ashutosh Kumar-went into hiding after Kanhaiya Kumar was taken into custody. Ten days later, they emerged from hiding. Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid surrendered to the authorities and were detained. The other three students stayed in class but said they were ready to talk to the authorities if they needed to.

    Sedition legislation use and detention were harshly criticised for stifling political opposition. The British Raj was alleged to have utilised a legislation that Kumar was detained under that was passed in 1870 to stifle the Indian independence movement. Teachers at the university called the arrest "excessive police action" and denounced it. In a human chain, JNU students argued that Kanhaiya Kumar should not be accused of sedition. A human rights group in India called for the abolition of India's sedition law because it contravenes international standards for freedom of expression and that Kumar's arrest and the accusations made against him were "uncalled for".

    The committee imposed various punishments on several students in response to the investigation. Besides expelling Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya from the institution, Kanhaiya Kumar was fined Rs 10,000. Other students were fined, robbed, banned from campus or denied access to hostel facilities.

    The committee found that a group of masked foreigners shouted offensive slogans at the February 9 meeting. The panel condemned the university's security team for failing to prevent outsiders from leaving the campus or stopping the sloganeering. Organizers of the original event were also criticized for "failing to act responsibly". "This behavior by outsiders has brought shame to the entire JNU community"' the panel said.
     
  2. Aseem Trivedi Case (A Controversial Cartoonist)
    Aseem Trivedi was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of sedition. He is a polarising political activist and cartoonist best known for his anti-corruption campaign, Cartoons Against Corruption. Amit Katarnayea, a legal advisor with a Mumbai-based NGO, filed the complaint, accusing Trivedi of showing 'insulting and demeaning' sketches during an Anna Hazare anti- corruption rally and of posting them online.

    The Parliament was depicted as a lavatory, and rabid wolves were used in place of the lions in the National Emblem, casting a derogatory light on it. Members of India Against Corruption (IAC) allegedly claimed that Trivedi was a victim of the government due of their anti-corruption campaign, as reported by India Today.

    According to Mayank Gandhi of the IAC, "The case has been registered only because Aseem had participated in the BKC protest organised by Anna Hazare and had raised his voice against corruption". The administration is aiming to stifle his opposition in this way. When a young guy was arrested for making fun of the country's blatant corruption, it raised serious questions about the freedom of speech and expression in the Trivedi case.

    It's reasonable that some individuals could find his cartoon offensive and in poor taste, but to condemn someone to life in prison for such an offence is excessive. The cartoon that Aseem Trivedi is accused of producing depicts "Bharat Mata" being sexually abused by politicians and bureaucrats and substitutes the national anthem of India with "Three wolves" rather than "Three lions".

    His sedition charges were dropped after a lawyer submitted an independent plea, and he was released on a 5000 rupee personal bond as bail. The accusations of sedition against Trivedi were a "bonafide knee jerk reaction", Attorney General Darius Khambatta admitted in front of the HC court, to the numerous complaints the police had received regarding Trivedi's drawings.

    The proper sedition charges were dropped by the Maharashtra government on October 12, 2012. After carefully examining the case's facts, the court confirmed that it does not amount to an offence as that term is defined in Section 124(a) of the IPC.
     
  3. Shreya Singhal Case (Technology and Sedition)
    The Supreme Court of India's decision to invalidate Section 66A of the Information Technology Act for allegedly violating Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees everyone the right to freedom of speech and expression, is significant in terms of Indian law. In 2012, Shreya Singhal, then a law student, submitted a petition to alter Section 66A in response to the detention of two teenage girls in Mumbai over a Facebook post condemning the city's lockdown following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

    The other girl simply "liked", while one of the girls posted a comment.Comprehending this decision requires understanding the court's holding that speech, regardless of how "unpopular," obscene, or indecent, must have a proven relationship to violence or a disturbance of the peace. Only "representation", according to the Supreme Court's distinction between the two terms, is criminally culpable.

    The Supreme Court ruling had been on hold for three years when the petition was submitted in 2015, but Shreya had not been relocated. "I occasionally felt depressed, but I never gave up. I was particularly disturbed to learn that while the matter was still being investigated by the Commission of Inquiry, the police were still making arrests under Section 66A of the IT Act. It was reassuring that despite the arrests, comments were still being left". In a 52-page decision that went into considerable depth about India, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 66-A of the IT Act, interpreted Section 79 of the Act and the pertinent provisions, and confirmed the constitutionality of Section 69A of the Act. English and American laws on free speech. In his remarks on behalf of the court, Justice Nariman provided a list of standards for determining when speech restrictions are generally appropriate under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.

    The court determined that Section 66-A violated Article 19(1)(a) because it was not precisely tailored to the speech it wanted to stifle and was too ambiguous and wide. The court specifically determined that statutory language that is ambiguous and wide has a "disturbing effect" on speech, such as the ability to halt broadcasting. In addition, the court determined that the "public order" clause of Section 19(2) of the Constitution only applies to "incitement" or more specifically, to incitement, which expressly alludes to upsetting the peace. The court upheld the position made by the petitioners' attorney that there is no discernible difference between print, broadcast, and actual media.

    The court cited Article 14 of the Asian nation's constitution in its ruling. critical online discourse On the Internet, anyone may express their viewpoint without having to pay anything, which is the obvious distinction. While the Supreme Court's decision has had a significant impact on protecting freedom of speech on the Internet from arbitrary restrictions, section 66A has often been used in retaliation for prohibit online speech.

    Although the Supreme Court's ruling significantly increased the protection of internet communication from arbitrary limitations, section 66A has frequently been employed as payback to restrict online speech.

    Sedition has therefore been both imposed and rescinded to be inflicted on the accused in modern times. The Law of Sedition, however, has become more incongruous in basic jurisprudence in the modern era as constitutional validity has risen, particularly in the context of Fundamental Rights, as it conflicts with one of the most important rights of Free speech and expression.
     
Conclusive Address
  1. Importance of the violation (Post Independence v. Modern Era)
    Several Indian Freedom Fighters participated in numerous status trials in cases alleging violations of Indian law during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Since Bharat's independence, there have been numerous instances of misuse in the post-independence era.

    It has been used arbitrarily to quell dissent. Its primary audience consists of writers, journalists, activists who question government policy and come out against it, and political dissenters. Throughout the era, courts, lawyers, and political activists have frequently debated whether or not freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right. It gives a person the opportunity to express themselves, to disagree, to change for the better, and to freely exchange knowledge.

    The restriction must be reasonable and constitutionally acceptable, it cannot be arbitrary. The IPC's Section 124A calls for a reconsideration of the gift issue. The right balance between infringement legislation and freedom of speech and expression must be maintained. Additionally, it has been stated that it is crucial to narrow the scope of section 124A application and limit it from being used arbitrarily and indiscriminately because doing so can have a "chilling effect" on people's freedoms of speech and expression. It has been defined that "Sedition" is infidelity in practise.

    The purpose of infringement laws is to sow discontent, spark political unrest, undermine the legitimacy of the government, and degrade the administration of justice. However, it has been hotly contested whether or not there should be a detailed distinction made between "dissent" and "disaffection". Dissent doesn't always imply disaffection and vice versa; these two concepts are wholly distinct from one another.
     
  2. Constitutional Validity Discussions
    According to discussions over constitutional legitimacy, India is the world's most populous democracy, and dissent serves as the democracy's safety valve. Therefore, such out-of-date Colonial Era law is not applicable in the twenty-first century. In fact, the government today frequently uses this law as a tool to muzzle the voice of the people.

    And because infringement may be a cognoscible offence, meaning that police don't need a warrant to make an arrest, they frequently detain the people and file flimsy charges. According to the NCRB's most recent report, 193 infringement charges have been submitted in the preceding four years, starting in 2015. However, just forty three instances have had their trials concluded, and of those, only four have found the defendant guilty.

    This emphasis the fact that although the government and police abuse this law to suit their whims and fancies, they utterly fail when it comes to convicting those defendants of committing the offence. Therefore, it is frequently implicit that this law will do more harm than good. Currently, the majority of the country has declared the infringement statute to be unconstitutional or has left it out of their penal code. In fact, England, which inspired this provision in India, also removed it 13 years ago, therefore there is no justification for India to maintain the same.

    As a result of laws like the Seditious Meetings Act of 1911, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (section 95), and the Unlawful (Prevention Act), we can today declare that infringement is no longer necessary. It's additionally been heavily debated by critics of infringement that it's a British law, and thus the same law was repealed by UK's government in 2009, thus keeping it within the realms of Bharat, that was a British colony, and thus the law was enacted to forestall rebellions and mass protests ought to be repealed from our constitution still.

Personal Opinion
Sedition remains a strictly enforced statute in India, notwithstanding a number of changes. Though the legislation has occasionally been upheld in a just manner, there have also been times when it has been exploited to silence dissenting voices. Many artists, journalists, and political activists have been held in check by governments using the law, sometimes in very unfavourable ways.

But the Sedition Act does have some advantages. The Sedition Law can be viewed as a powerful weapon to establish adequate checks and balances in a politically charged society that occasionally forgets the responsibilities that come with the granted fundamental rights if it is used and revised by the courts.

Sedition in its current definition undoubtedly ruthlessly restricts and impedes the right to free speech, but despite this, it retains a legitimate expectation that speakers will do so in a manner consistent with moral decency and the public's good.

Suggestions for Sedition Law Amendments
  1. Reduction in Punishment
    In light of the times we live in today, sedition convictions should carry more lenient sentences. The crime of sedition generally does not call for imprisonment up to a life sentence or other such harsh punishments today because of increased freedom of speech and expression and stronger views on the government among the populace.

    Additionally, it's always possible that someone who is accused of sedition spoke out of turn or in the heat of the moment. The seditious conduct should be handled more reasonably unless they have actually caused another person tangible harm.
     
  2. Disaffection v. Dissent
    When evaluating situations of sedition, it should be very clear what constitutes "dissent" and what constitutes "disaffection". When examining our society's moral compass, "Disaffection" is more likely to inspire anger and disdain among the populace and should be handled as such. Sedition is unquestionably a contentious idea, and it must be carefully balanced with our "Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression".

    Every citizen should have the freedom to express their opinions on the Government, even if no citizen should be permitted to sow unwarranted animosity among the populace or instigate violence against the Government (particularly in a nation based on the values of non-violence). People have referred to the implemented law as "draconian" because of the sometimes discrepancy between the interpretation set out by the Indian courts and the actual implementation of this law. Perhaps now is the ideal time to think about changing this law, as people are becoming more conscious of their rights and liberties and have a greater feeling of duty and responsibility in this democratic society.

References:
  • https://blogs.loc.gov/law/2012/10/sedition-law-in-india/
  • https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1641007/
  • https://www.scobserver.in/journal/sedition-in-india-a-timeline/
  • https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1430706/
  • https://blog.ipleaders.in/sedition-and-its-interplay-with-fundamental-rights/
  • https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1767738/
  • https://indianculturalforum.in/2016/06/12/sedition-and-the-right-to-freedom-of-expression/
  • https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north/story/charges-against-binayak-sen-128313-2011-02-10
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binayak_Sen
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawaharlal_Nehru_University_sedition_row
  • http://www.ijtrd.com/papers/IJTRD15901.pdf
  • https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/10/indian-cartoonist-jailed-sedition
  • https://indiankanoon.org/doc/57916643/
  • https://indiankanoon.org/doc/110813550/
  • https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/cases/shreya-singhal-v-union-of-india/
  • https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/government-moves-repeal-sedition-laws
  • https://en.wikinews.org/wiki/New_Zealand_repeals_sedition_law
  • https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/Freedomofreligion/Interim_Report/section?

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