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The Indian freedom movement is mentioned in relation to the history of the sedition legislation. The first attempt to codify the criminal code in its current form was made in the years following the Indian Independence Revolt of 1857. The 1st Law Commission, which was led by Lord Macaulay and created in 1860, made recommendations that led to the introduction of the Indian Penal Code in 1860. Section 124A of the IPC (hereafter referred to as the Act), which dealt with the IPC's sedition laws, was not mentioned. Sedition was originally codified as a crime in Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with crimes against the state, in 1870. In the Bangabasi case of the Queen v. Jogendra Chandra Bose (1891), the first sedition trial was held. The misuse of Section 124A and whether or not this clause should be ruled illegal have been the subject of ongoing discussion for a very long time.

Concept of Section 124 A

Sedition is generally understood to be an infraction committed by anyone who attempts to incite hatred or discontent towards the government through their words, deeds, or other public displays. Sedition is a crime that is committed when someone incites or tries to instigate hatred or contempt in others against the legally formed authority. It is essential that incitement results in widespread acts of violence. The incitement may be given orally or in writing, or it may take the form of a sign or another appropriate medium. Anyone who engages in sedition may be sentenced to three years in prison, a fine, or both, or their sentence may be increased to include a life sentence in prison with or without a fee. The requirements for the crime of sedition are as follows:

  • First and first, the words must be expressed verbally, in writing, through actions, or through signs.
  • It ought to arouse in the populace a sense of hostility, contempt, disillusionment, or hate towards the government.
  • The key components of seditious action are those who commit acts of violence or inspire others to commit acts of violence. If you try to incite others to insult or oppose the government in any way through violent protests or other forms of public unrest, you may have committed sedition.

Sedition and its validity of Constitution

In Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha v. Union of India (2021), the Supreme Court of India will debate the legality of Section 124A, which makes sedition a crime. Two journalists, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla, have been charged with sedition in India in relation to postings and cartoons that they allegedly made on social media. They have submitted a writ suit contesting the constitutionality of Section 124A, which makes sedition a crime and imposes penalties for it.

In addition to other things, Section 124A is helpful in the struggle against anti-national, separatist, and terrorist elements. It protects the elected government from attempts to overthrow it using violent and illegal means. For a state to remain cohesive, the established legal government must maintain its legitimacy. Criminal prosecution should follow acts of government disobedience if criminal prosecution follows acts of disobedience to the court. 

The claim that Section 124A limits our "freedom of expression" has been made against it on various occasions since independence. In a secular, independent India where democratic values are preserved, many have questioned the so-called "tyrannical" remnants of colonial rule. As a result, detractors claim that this legislation of the Indian Penal Code violates the Constitution of the nation. Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar (1962), a seminal case, determined that Section 124A was constitutionally legitimate.

Landmark Judgements

  • The Queen-Empress vs. Bal Gangadhar Tilak 

One of the most well-known historical examples of sedition is when our nation's independence fighters fought against colonial rule. Two different times, the valiant proponent of Indian freedom, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, was charged with sedition. It was given for the first penalty in 1897 for speeches that were said to have incited others to act violently, killing two British officers. He was tried in 1909 for publishing seditious articles in his newspaper Kesari, which he was then the owner of, after being found guilty in 1898 and given bail for the crime.

The first definition and application of Section 124 A occurred in 1897. According to the court, the ruling Privy Council considered the encouragement to violence and revolt unimportant when deciding who was to blame for a person who had been charged with sedition. The use of the term "Disaffection" in this instance was clarified by using an example. Hatred, disagreement, animosity, disrespect, and any other negative feelings towards the government are all examples of disaffection. 

  • Dr. Binayak Sen vs State of Chattisgarh  

Dr. Binayak Sen was found guilty of sedition at the Raipur Session's Court for his association with the Naxalites, and he was sentenced to life in jail. He was accused of helping active Naxalites by allegedly transmitting SMS from one prisoner to another outside the jail. According to him, doing something like that was never a possibility because he was constantly under the supervision of a prison official; rather, his condemnation of Salwa Judum's involvement in their deaths is what ultimately led him to this situation. I was informed that this gang was receiving assistance from the state government in its endeavours to remove village land mine for diamonds, bauxite, and iron ore from it.

  • Balwant Singh and Others v. Punjab State

The accused in this case screamed the phrase "Khalistan Zindabad" in front of a movie theatre after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed. The court came to the decision that two people casually raising chants could not be regarded as encouraging opposition to the government. Section 124A would not apply in this case due to the circumstances.

Increased abuse of Section 124A of the IPC 

This is not unexpected given the law's frequent application in recent years, both to journalists and other nonviolent dissenters. The legislation against sedition is a useful tool in the state's arsenal for maintaining peace and order in society. However, it cannot be utilised to put an end to disturbance under the guise of silencing illegal behaviour. Of course, it is against the law to engage in any behaviour that could disrupt or jeopardise public order by the use of force. 

 As a result, it is assumed that Section 124 A can be validly used against the accused even though there was no accusation of the accused person making any calls for disorder or disrupting the peace of the community by using violence or making any indirect or overt references to doing so. Many people believe that using Section 124 A is a very controversial topic.


India, the largest democracy in the world, understands the value of the freedom of speech and expression as a key tenet of democracy. It should not be considered that just expressing or thinking something contrary to official policy constitutes sedition. The Law Commission was right when they said that "an expression of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs shouldn't be regarded as sedition." There wasn't much of a difference between our country's pre- and post-Independence eras in terms of accepting constructive condemnation.

The most serious infraction that can be perpetrated in violation of Article 19 is seditious activity. As a result, sedition legislation must specifically include language that complies with Article 19(2)'s limitations. Sedition laws are intended to restrict free expression in order to protect the safety of the populace. The Supreme Court's rules for construing and enforcing sedition laws ought to be put into action through legislation.

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