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The Draconian Sedition Law Of India

The Sedition law in India was brought under the mighty rule of Britishers in order to suppress the voice of Indians. The concept of sedition comes from England, which has now itself abolished its sedition law in the year 2009 owing to the reason that it is one of the oldest laws which was brought to curb the Freedom of speech and expression but as now the country recognizes the Right of Free Speech, it has abolished sedition.

The Supreme Court of India has time and again interpreted that this law should be used in serious situations only when there is a direct impact on the public disorder and the security of the state is hampered. Raising slogans is not sufficient to charge any person with sedition. Various examples where it can be seen that the law has only been used in order to curb liberty are-

  • In March 2014, 60 Kashmiri students were charged with sedition as they were cheering Pakistan in a cricket match.

  • In September 2001, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was charged with sedition.

  • In the year 2014, 47 cases of sedition were recorded out of which only 1 was convicted.

These examples show that this law aims to instill fear among the people and curb their liberty.

Elements that are essential to establish the offense of sedition as per S. 124 A of Indian Penal Code are as follows-

  • Brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt.

  • Inciting or attempting to incite disaffection.

  • An act or attempt done by 1) any words spoken or written or 2) signs or 3) visual representation or otherwise.

  • The act done should be intentional.

Kedar Nath v. Union of India 1962 is the landmark case where Kedar Nath gave a speech against Congress and said that they are ‘gundas’ etc. An important issue was raised that whether sedition is punishable only against the party as a whole or when targeting the members of the party as this distinction is difficult to implement. Thus it was held 19(2) to protect only law that upholds the public order. The two new ingredients which were added first should be incitement of violence and secondly a tendency to create public disorder.

The case of Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab 1997 can be reflected upon. In this case, a speech was made on the day of the assassination of Indira Gandhi where slogans were raised like Khalistan zindabad, etc. The court held that raising slogans for a few times against the state cannot be held liable under sedition as it did not cause any threat to the government and slogans did not give rise to enmity or hatred. The court mentioned two points-

- Slogans should be accompanied by some overt acts.

- The act should be capable of evoking a reaction from others.

The famous slogan of ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ was coined by Nehru and has been used across the country since then, now due to strenuous relations between India and China does not make use of this slogan as it comes under ‘sedition’. Thus by the time the speech/slogans/visual representations do not tend to incite violence and there is no immediate effect of creating a lawless situation, the mere raising of slogans cannot be held liable. Lonesome shouting of slogans does not lead to either incitement of violence nor does it tend to create public disorder.

As sec 124A, IPC has no mention of ‘public disorder’ thus mere exciting or attempting to excite disaffection is made punishable. The law of sedition curbs the freedom of speech and expression as A.19 (2) mentions the exception to free speech on the ground of security of the state but the public disorder is not included in the offense and only security of the state is included. Thus sedition is indeed a draconian law in India that has the potential to curb the freedom to free speech and expression which is guaranteed to the people of India, thus the law of sedition should be scrapped.


Shivanshi Gupta is currently studying law from the Institute of Law, Nirma University.

you can contact them at https://www.linkedin.com/in/shivanshi-gupta-77137a176

Edited By: Swati Tolambia

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