SEDITION: ORIGIN AND CURRENT STATUS IN INDIA

SEDITION: ORIGIN AND CURRENT STATUS IN INDIA
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About the Author:

Megha Chauhan is currently studying in Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, university of Delhi.

INTRODUCTION

As we all know, under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution, every citizen enjoys the right to free speech and expression. Despite this, under Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution, some legitimate restrictions on freedom of speech and expression have been imposed. However, if a person does something disrespectful to the government of India through his or her words, signs, or representations, that act is punished under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. “Any person who, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, causes or attempts to bring hatred or contempt, or inspires or attempts to incite disaffection towards the Government constituted by law”. According to the Indian Penal Code, an act must meet the following criteria to be considered “seditious”:

1. Any written or spoken words, as well as signs that contain a visible representation

2. Aversion to, dissatisfaction with, or contempt for the Indian government

3. Causes Impending bloodshed or public unrest

These laws were put in place by the government to protect its interests and protect itself from persons who tried to instigate discontent against it, but as the country has changed, they have begun to be used as a weapon to silence people who try to criticise the government.

HISTORY

As we realize that most of the legal guidelines in India are given via the Britishers whilst India was under the control of British authorities and Sedition regulation is one of those. Sedition regulation was not a part of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It was delivered as an offence through clause 113 of the draft of the Indian penal code by Lord Macaulay in 1837. It was added into IPC in 1870 through an amendment as section 124A for the offences against the state and was done as a response to the Wahabi Motion which was led by way of Syed Ahmed. The aim was to curb the rising voices of the Indian leaders against British rule. After Independence, there were a lot of debates that this segment has to be waived because it violated the Fundamental Rights.

MAHATMA GANDHI WAS CHARGED FOR SEDITION

In the Course of the Freedom war, Mahatma Gandhi wrote articles in his weekly magazine Young India and turned into charge with Tampering with loyalty; try to excite disaffection towards the British Government and shaking the manes. He was sentenced to 6 years and was released after 2 years as he became stricken by appendicitis. Mahatma Gandhi called Section 124A as the prince among the political sections of IPC [2].

BAL GANGADHAR TILAK CHARGED FOR SEDITION

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with sedition for the first time in 1897 when his statements incited violence and resulted in the deaths of two British Officers. The scope of the charge was extended by the courts in Queen Empress v.Bal Gangadhar Tilak [3], and mere attempts to promote hatred and disaffection might be considered as sedition. Tilak also demanded Immediate Swaraj, for which he was convicted with sedition and imprisoned in Burma from 1908 to 1914.

 JOGENDRA CHUNDER BOSE, A JOURNALIST, WAS CHARGED WITH SEDITION

Jogendra Chunder Bose was an editor of Bangobasi. He was charged with sedition after writing an article denouncing and opposing the Age Consent Bill of 1891. The case ofQueen-Empressv. Jogendra Chunder Bose [4] defined the terms ‘disaffection’ and ‘disapprobation’. The words were sufficient for the section, according to the court, and were designed to incite the feelings of hatred and contempt for the government”

 INDIA’S SEDITION LAW’S CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY

There were multiple arguments in the Constituent assembly about including “Sedition” as a restriction on Freedom of Speech and Expression. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stated that the provision is disagreeable and obnoxious and that it should be removed from the law as soon as possible. In Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar [6], the Supreme Court confirmed the constitutional validity of the sedition law. The statute was found to be constitutional as it encompassed both written and spoken remarks intended to incite hostility towards Government. Supreme Court confirmed Section 124A’s constitutionality and confined its application to acts containing the intent to cause disruption or incitement to violence.

This law’s constitutional legality was not only contested in this instance but it is still being disputed today. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the accused in Balwant Singh and Anr v. State of Punjab [7] chanted Khalistan Zindabad chants outside a venue. It was decided that two people casually shouting slogans could not be regarded to be encouraging hatred or disdain for the government. Aside from that, the Law Commission of India published a consultation paper in 2018 recommending the Central government to reconsider or delete section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

SOME RECENT SEDITION TRIALS

  1. Akbaruddin Owaisi v. Andhra Pradesh Govt. [8]- He gave a speech in Nirmal, Adilabad district, on December 22, 2012, that allegedly targeted a certain community. The District Police of Karimnagar accused him of sedition.
  2. Climate activist Disha Ravi case[9]- Disha Ravi, a climate activist, was detained by Delhi Police on suspicion of being involved in the spreading of a “toolkit” relating to farmer protests on social media and was charged with sedition and conspiracy.
  3. Vinod Dua v. Union of India [10]- On the allegation of BJP leader Ajay Shyam, journalist Vinod Dua was charged under sections 124A, 268, 501.
  4. Journalist Siddique Kappan Case – Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist, was arrested for sedition.

NEED OF SEDITION LAW IN THE PRESENT INDIA

As we all know, the Indian promise declares that “all Indians are my brothers and sisters,” yet there are some in the country who refuses to see the country moving toward development and expansion, and who seeks to destroy the country’s unity and integrity. As a result, we require Sedition Laws for such individuals. As previously said, a single man was successful in gathering thousands of people simply by abusing the country in 2016. Such events lead us to believe that sedition laws are required in today’s India. Kanhaiya Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi [11]- JNU, Student leader, Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested in 2016 for inciting violence throughout the world through unlawful speech. Kanhaiya Kumar’s detention sparked political upheaval in the country.

The tapes purporting to show this action were discovered to be fraudulent on March 2, 2016, and he was freed after three weeks in jail. In 2014, the NCRB disclosed data on sedition for the first time, revealing that 47 sedition cases were registered across nine states in 2014, with Bihar having the largest number of cases. According to NCRB data, 193 sedition cases were filed in the last four years, starting in 2015. However, just 43 trials have been completed, with the accused being found guilty in only four of them.

 SEDITION LAW AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

The concept of freedom of speech has been widely accepted around the world, and it is widely regarded as a fundamental right of every citizen. This fundamental right permits people to voice their opinions and maintain a healthy balance in which citizen praise and criticise their government. This right is enshrined in Part III and Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. However, it is subject to various limitations under article 19(2). Restrictions on fundamental rights are necessary for the country’s democracy to work, but they must be reasonable rather than arbitrary. Courts have been given the authority to function as guardians of people’ rights. When it comes to prohibitions, sedition is one of them under Article 19(1)(a), and it is becoming an arbitrary source of authority to silence anyone who tries to challenge the administration with each passing day.

Since independence, there has been tension between sedition legislation and fundamental rights. Section 124A is extra vires because it breaches article 19(1)(a) of the constitution’s freedom of speech and expression, and the wording employed in the statute are unclear and ambiguous. Indramani Singh v. State of Manipur [12], it was found that while section 124A is extra vires, the restriction on freedom of speech and expression imposed under article 19(2) is intra vires. In addition, the Allahabad High Court ruled in 1959 that section 124A violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

CONCLUSION

The law of sedition was given to the Indians by the British government under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. It has been a highly contentious bill with no end in sight to the debates. It can be stated that this law has been applied arbitrarily many times. Sedition is a serious crime that violates the constitution’s article 19. As a result, there is a requirement for sedition laws to include explicit language that satisfies the restriction outlined in Article 19(2). However, we might also say that sedition is an anti-national statute because the government frequently brands everyone who opposes the government under its shadow. The Supreme Court’s rules should be followed while applying and interpreting sedition statutes.

REFERENCES

  1. Section 124A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1641007/
  2. M.K. Gandhi, Trial Speech, 2014. Great Speeches of Modern India, edited by R. Mukherjee, p.83.
  3.  Bal Gangadhar Tilak v. Queen Empresshttps://indiankanoon.org/doc/890587/
  4. Queen Empress v. Jogendra Chunder Bose  https://indiankanoon.org/doc/334102/
  5.  April-June 2014, Saksena, N, and Srivastava, S. Sedition as a Modern offence is examined. NUJS Law Review, pp. 120-147.
  6. Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar https://indiankanoon.org/doc/111867/
  7. Balwant Singh & Anr. V. State of Punjab https://indiankanoon.org/doc/123425906/
  8. Akbaruddin Owaisi v. State of A.P. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/180785805/
  9. Disha A. Ravi v. State (NCT of Delhi) & Ors. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/58737196/
  10. Vinod Dua v. Union of India https://indiankanoon.org/doc/50969306/
  11. Kanhaiya Kumar v. State of NCT of Delhi https://indiankanoon.org/doc/77368780/
  12. Indramani Singh v. State of Manipur https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1225747/

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