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Sedition law - S. 124A IPC - Repeal this colonial legacy


Dr Binayak Sen, a prominent people's doctor and active civil rights leader has been unjustly implicated in a 'naxalite' case and now cruelly and unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment on virtually non-existent hearsay evidence under a provision of the Indian penal code termed by Gandhi as "the prince of the political sections of the IPC suppressing the liberties of a citizen." And we, all lovers of democracy and human rights, have to agitate for the immediate release of Binayak Sen as also for repeal of this oppressive colonial legacy of Section 124A of IPC.

Dr. Binayak Sen has been sentenced to a life term under what is known as the sedition clause in the Indian Penal Code Section 124-A. This is the same clause using which the British sent two famous patriotic Indians - Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi – to prison. This is the same clause about which Jawaharlal Nehru said:  “…so far as I am concerned that particular Section is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons, if you like, in any body of laws that we might pass. The sooner we get rid of it the better. Yet 60 years after India's first prime minister said that, India's rulers have sent a world renowned doctor and civil liberties activist to serve a life term using that same clause. What exactly does the IPC Section 124-A say?

124A. Sedition – 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. 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.

Given that the preceding Sections in the Indian Penal Code specifically deal with waging war against the state, Section 124-A seems but an excessive bar on free speech. Moreover, here Dr. Binayak Sen did not himself express any opinion or make comment about sedition or waging war and what the prosecution did was to construct a loose narrative based on faulty evidence that a) Dr. Binayak Sen is known to be sympathetic to Naxalites who are waging war against the state; b) he acted as an intermediary between arrested naxalite Narayan Sanyal and the party by carrying letters between them. c) By carrying letters between two Naxalites who are waging war against the state, he participated in a conspiracy to overthrow the state. Ergo, Dr. Binayak Sen is guilty of sedition. The ease with which this has been accomplished by the trial court in Raipur should give us all pause to think. If Dr. Binayak Sen can be convicted for sedition, then any citizen of India who expresses dissent against government's policy and incurs the wrath of the corrupt order can be convicted of sedition. It is time to demand that the section be repealed altogether – it is in fact the most urgent duty of all democratically minded Indians to do so. 

Recall what Mahatma Gandhi said during the famous Ahmedabad trial in 1922: Section 124 A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the   political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by the law. He also asserted that What in law is a deliberate crime appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen,” and finally, to preach disaffection towards the existing system of Government has become almost a passion with me.” Though Mahatma Gandhi, in his own peculiar manner, pleaded guilty and asked the Judge to sentence him to the maximum punishment under the said provision, the judge R.S. Broomfield, convicted him and sentenced him to six years of rigorous imprisonment, conceding that It would be impossible to ignore the fact that in the eyes of millions of your countrymen you are a great patriot and a great leader.And nearly 80 years later, the judge in Raipur sent Dr. Binayak Sen under the same charges, and that without any trace of compunction or magnanimity, to jail for a life term - this is a record set in India for punishing any one under this horrible provision - in the face of a popular surge of worldwide protest. Now is the time to demand repeal of this obnoxious clause or we will be leaving our future generations to suffer the consequences. - Printed and published for “Free Binayak Sen Campaign, Hyderabad,” by its Coordinator,
I. Mallikarjuna Sharma, Advocate, 6-3-1243/116, M.S. Makta, HYDERABAD - 500 082.
Ph: 040-23300284. 

Please join our Cause: Free Dr. Binayak Sen! Repeal Section 124-A IPC! on the facebook.

 2 Replies

Democratic Indian (n/a)     10 February 2011

There are plenty of colonial legacies in this country. One of them is IAS/IPS and their practically unlimited powers. White Babus have left and Brown Babus have taken over. White Babus at least had probity and shame, which Brown Babus totally lack. Even though we have the Right to Keep and Bear Arms as a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 19 and 21, we have a colonial legacy/repainted version of Arms Act 1878 in form of Arms Act 1959 to persecute people for exerciseing their natural right, human right, fundamental right of RKBA. Please provide the link for facebook.




SEMINAR on ‘Law of Treason and Sedition – with specific reference to the demand for repeal of Section 124-A IPC.’

To be held at Hyderabad on 12 March 2011 (Saturday)


Here are the details of our proposed seminar on 12 March 2011 (Saturday) here at Hyderabad:

Seminar on treason and sedition laws to be held in Hyderabad on Sat, 12 March.  The seminar is being organized by the "Free Binayak Sen Campaign, Hyderabad as part of its ongoing effort to highlight the miscarriage of justice in the Binayak Sen and many other cases.

The tentative seminar topics are:

1.  History of sedition and treason laws in India
2.  Sedition & treason laws around the world--comparative analysis
3.  Sedition and treason laws in history
4.  Nature of the state and sedition laws
5.  People's response around the world to sedition and treason laws
6.  The need for repealing sedition and treason laws in India--Action agenda

Besides scholars from Hyderabad, we are inviting a select lawyers, social scientists, journalists and activists from other parts of India to participate in the seminar.  We will not be able to offer you a fare, but will look after your hospitality in Hyderabad.

Please let me know whether you will be able make it, and if so the title of your talk and which of the above broad topics it would fall under. 

We will appreciate very much if you can present a paper on matters related to any of the topics above. Thanks, 


Coordinator, Free Binayak Sen Campaign, Hyderabad.
Advocate & Editor, LAW ANIMATED WORLD, [],
6-3-1243/156, M.S. Makta, Hyderabad - 500 082. Ph: 040 - 23300284.

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