- Introduction- Basic information on Sedition law
- History of Sedition Law
- Supreme Court agrees to examine the validity of Sedition law given under Section 124A
The general meaning of the word 'Sedition' is a conduct or speech by a person in any form which incites others to retaliate or rebel against the authority. In India, Sedition is an offense under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Under Indian Law, Sedition means, any attempt made by any person in any form to incite retaliation against the government established by law is sedition. The Indian Penal Code talks about sedition under section 124A which states that, “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, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with 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.
Sedition entered the Indian statute books as 'clause 113', when T.B. Macaulay, India's first Law Member, codified the draft Indian Penal Code in 1837. However, it was kept out of the 1860 Act of the Indian Penal Code, but included in 1870, perhaps to counter the Wahhabi insurgency which was spreading across the country. It was not used until 1891, when in the case of Queen-Empress v Jogendra Chandra Bose and Ors, 1891, in India, Judge C.J. Petheram of the Calcutta High Court convicted journalists of the Bangabasi newspaper for sedition, because they did not seem to have the disposition to obey the lawful authority of the government. The scope of the term sedition has continuously expanded over the years and now carrying incorporated words ‘hatred’ and ‘contempt’ in it.
Supreme Court agrees to examine the validity of Section 124A of IPC
Sedition law has always been in debate ever since its existence. The Father of our nation-Mahatma Gandhi describes sedition as a prince among the other political sections of the IPC which are designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Mr. Nehru also described the law on sedition as obnoxious and highly objectionable and a law that should have no place in any body of laws that we might pass. However, it is quite evident that the Sedition law has paved its way till now though facing controversies.
Since, its existence, the law has remained in controversy including the times before and after the independence. One of the very famous cases concerning sedition law in India is the Kedarnath Singh Case of 1962. In this case of, Kedarnath Singh V. The State of Bihar, AIR 1962 955, the law of sedition given under section 124A of the IPC was questioned on its validity and the Honorable Court upheld the constitutional validity of the said law. However, the validity of the sedition law has always been in question for a long time. Just a few months back in February 2021, the Honorable Court dismissed an appeal filed by the three lawyers on the validity of Sedition law, and after that, now, in April 2021, we have another case questioning the validity and existence of Sedition law in India.
Case- Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha V. Union of India
On 29th of April 2021, the three-judge bench comprising Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice U.U Lalit, and Justice K.M Joseph in the case of, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha V. Union of India agreed to examine the validity of sedition law in India.
Background of the Case
This case was filed by two journalists namely, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha of Manipur and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla from Chhattisgarh who challenged the validity of the Sedition Law provided under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for violation of Freedom of Speech and Expression. They have filed this case because an FIR was registered against them under Section 124A of the IPC, 1860, for sharing cartoon and comments which were considered to be raising questions against the Central and State governments, on a social media platform known as Facebook.
Arguments presented by the Petitioner
The learned counsel of the petitioner, in this case, gave three main arguments:-
• Firstly it was submitted that in today’s time Section 124A is not necessary, the counsel said that in 1962 this provision might have been required to maintain public order and public violence against the government and that is why the Supreme Court upheld it to be valid but today it is no more required.
• Secondly, it was submitted by the learned counsel that there is much alternative legislation present that has been enacted to maintain National Security, Public order, public safety, and therefore taking their existence into consideration, the provision concerning sedition is not required and
• Lastly, three relevant considerations were mentioned as the constitutional inquiry involves the consideration of the prevailing conditions of the time.
i. One of the considerations was that India has obligations under International Law as it has ratified with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and under Article 19 of the ICCPR Freedom of expression as a right to all individual is provided and Section 124A is in contravention to that.
ii. The second relevant circumstance which was submitted was the frequent misapplication, abuse, and misuse of Section 124A. It was submitted that even people simply exercising their democratic rights are charged under this section.
iii. The third relevant circumstance that was cited and submitted by the petitioner's counsel was that the sedition section has been repealed by many countries today and the example of the United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana, etc, was also given.
The three-judge bench considering all this has issued a notice to the central government concerning this plea and agreed to examine the validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The case is pending in the Honorable Supreme Court for further hearing.
This law is not something that can be understood in a day or two. Sedition in itself is very complicated. One of the main questions that is always asked by the people is whether the sedition is against the nation or the government. Any law used wisely with deep enunciation will always be in favor of justice and the citizens. However, it is very much clear that today almost all of the laws which are made to protect the rights of the people are being abused by those very people. Like every other law, Sedition can also be used in both the ways, if used in a correct manner, it is helpful to maintain peace and order however if it is used abusively it infringes the rights of the citizens. Sedition is a topic that has remained in controversy for more than a century and even though it was considered highly objectionable before the independence, it is still present in our legal system and very widely used as well. In the end, sedition is still a debatable law in India and hopefully, its stance will be clear to everyone very soon.