What is Sedition Law in India?

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Sedition Law: The Supreme Court told the states and the Centre on Wednesday to stop all pending trials, appeals, and other proceedings related to the sedition charge laid out in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) until the central Government finishes the promised work to rethink and re-examine the section.

At first, the central Government defended the colonial rule, but it later told the highest court that it reviewed the rule.

What is the Sedition law?

Section 124A defines sedition as: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by signs, or in any other way, conveys or tries to convey into hatred or contempt, or excites or tries to exhilarate disaffection toward, the Government established by law, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, and a fine may be added…”

There are also three explanations in the clause: “Disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. “Comments expressing disapproval of Government measures to get them changed by lawful means, without provoking or trying to provoke hatred, contempt, or disaffection, are not an offense under this section. 

How did the law against sedition come to be?

Thomas Macaulay, who wrote the Indian Penal Code, had written a law against sedition, but it was left out of the version passed in 1860. Legal experts think that this mistake was made by accident. Through the Special Act XVII of 1890, sedition became a crime under section 124A IPC.

In 1955, the original punishment, which was to be sent “beyond the seas for the rest of his or her natural life,” was changed to life in prison.

During the Independence movement, this law was used to stop people from disagreeing with the Government. Several famous freedom fighters, such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Shaukat, Annie Besant, Maulana Azad, Mohammad Ali,  and Mahatma Gandhi, were charged under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code before independence. In 1898, the most famous sedition trial, Queen Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, took place.

Most courts took the law literally and decided that “…the disapproval must be ‘compatible’ with a willingness to obey the lawful authority of the Government and to support that lawful authority against illegal attempts to subvert or resist that authority.”

The Constituent Assembly talked about putting the word “sedition” in the Constitution as an exception to the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. However, several members strongly disagreed, and the word is not in the document.

People have been charged with sedition

  • On February 14, 2021, the Delhi Police arrested 21-year-old environment activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru for allegedly making a “toolkit” about farmers’ protests against farm laws.
  • In 2016, a group of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students held a poetry session to mark the 3rd anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case and sentenced to death. The students were later charged with sedition by the police in Delhi.
  • The UP Police stopped Siddique Kappan as he was going to report that a Dalit woman had been raped. The FIR against him said that he was going to Hathras to “break the peace” as part of a “conspiracy,” according to a PTI report.
  • In 2010, the author and activist Arundhati Roy and the leader of the Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were both charged with sedition for giving speeches at an event that were said to be “anti-India.”
  • To name a few, these are some examples. A report from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says that between 2015 and 2020, there were 356 cases of sedition and 548 arrests, but only six people were found guilty.

Conclusion

Even though some people may be excited about getting rid of sedition in the country, Section 124A of the IPC could be changed, as most private member bills have suggested. In its consultation paper, the Law Commission says sedition is essential to protect national integrity.

FAQs

When did sedition become part of the IPC?

Through the Special Act XVII of 1890, sedition became a crime under section 124A IPC.

What does it mean to break the Sedition law?

Sedition is a serious crime that can get you locked up for up to three years, or a fine, depending on what the court decides.

Who in India was the first to use sedition law?

In 1891, [Queen Empress Vs. Jogendra Chunder Bose & Ors., (1892) ILR 19 Cal.

What is the sedition charge?

Sedition is openly rebellious behavior, like organizing or speaking out against the established order. Sedition often involves going against a country’s Constitution and stirring up anger or rebellion against the Government.

Are Sedition law constitutional?

A panel of five judges upheld the constitutionality of the law. Still, it was made clear that criticizing the Government cannot be called sedition unless paired with a call for violence.

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