This article is written by Anushka Sharma from Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU and is curated by Rasveen Kaur Kapoor, Indore Institute of Law.
Sedition is a conduct or speech which incites people to reel against the authority of the state or monarch. It was stated in the case Nazir Khan v. State of Delhi, “The line dividing preaching disaffection towards the Government and legitimate political activity in a democratic set-up cannot be ascertained with precision. The demarcating line is thin and wavy.” Sedition basically revolves around the fact that enrages people with huge governance discontent and outrage and hence if not handled constitutionally can pose a problem.
II. History of the concept Sedition and allied laws In India
Initially, sedition was not a part of the Indian Penal Code which came into force in the year 1860. It was incorporated in 1870 in chapter-IV of the Indian Penal Code which deals with offences against the State. It came in the context to the rising Wahhabi Movement which aimed to overthrow the British rule. In Macaulay’s draft penal code (1837-39), Section- 113 dealt with Sedition which was omitted by the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and was again added back as Section 124 A by Act 27 in 1870. This section was amended by the Indian Penal Code of 1898. The amendment replaced the single explanation and incorporated three separate explanations for this section.
It was first applied in 1891 in Bnagobasi case. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was booked thrice under this law.
The section was amended quite a few times in the year 1937, 1948, and 1950, constitutional changes, by, the Government of India Act, 1935, the Independence Act of 1947 and the Indian Constitution of 1950 and no this section read as:
“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, 102 the Government established by law in 103 [India], shall be punished with 104 [imprisonment for life], to which 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.]”
Sedition existed in the Indian Penal Code before India got its Independence. The colonial master used to penalise anybody who tried to overthrow the state.
III. Present Scenario
The implementation of the aforesaid law presently in the hands of government and its officials at large, has taken a different embodiment; instead of actually punishing people, who are misusing it, it is inciting terror in the minds and hearts of the general public at large, taking away their freedom of speech and expression. As per the Supreme Court interpretation of Section 124A, says that it has to be against the state, not against the government. It also stated that there has to be a direct incitement to violence for it to be considered as sedition.
As per the data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 194 cases of sedition have been filed since the passing of the CAA on December 11, 2019 than in the last three years put together. The law has sometimes been used to bully ad terrorise people which is eventually leading to breach of their freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to them by Article 19 of the Constitution.
IV. CONCLUSION NOTE
The author believes that the misuse of Sedition Law should be looked after and serious action should be taken against the ones actually misusing it for their own benefit. Sedition Law shall be interpreted and applied in consonance with the due rationale behind its enactment and the constitutional virtues of the country at large shall be respected and borne in the minds of both the government as well as the officials thereto. India being the largest democracy in the world shall sustain its prodigious and equalitarian virtues enshrined in the Constitution of India.