LAW OF SEDITION AND THE CHILLING EFFECT ON FREEDOM OF PRESS IN INDIA

Reading time : 8 minutes

INTRODUCTION

In India, the legal regime surrounding the right to freedom of speech and expression is enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Free speech enables one to convey his individual’s opinions and ideas.

Such expression is vital to permit individuals for their aspiration of a sense of self-fulfilment. A democracy is characterised by self-based governance and enabling it’s individuals to modulate their opinions across all hues.

In such a society, a conflict between the individual’s opinion and the State is inevitable. Punishment  or curtailment for depreciating State authority or  judicial system is contradictory to the theory of right to free speech and expression.

The case of Queen-Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak[1] is the first case which interpreted Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860[2] which deals with Sedition. The Court described sedition as being the lack of affection. It denotes “enmity, hate, antagonism, disdain, hate, and all types of ill-will against the Government.” The court stated that no one should incite or strive to make people feel animosity toward the state.

A number of scholars and judges have observed that sedition is an extremely subjective offense. Thereby, judges evaluate the situation on a case-by-case premise to ascertain if any harm is caused to the stability of the State or democratic system. If such a choice is left to executive or legislative action it could enable an oppressive government to weaken the foundations of free speech.[3]

At Present, the freedom of the press is not included expressly Part III of the Indian Constitution. The protection freedom of the press is found explicitly. Such inconsistency brought into the forefront during the debates of the Constituent Assembly.

In Romesh Thapar v State of Madras[4] the court stated that the “freedom of speech and of the press lay at the cornerstone of all democratic institution, for without free political discussion, no public education, so necessary for the proper working of the procedure of popular government, is possible.”

ANATOMY OF IPC-124A- SEDITION

Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) forms part of Chapter VI and deals with offenses against the state and specifically the punishment for sedition.

This sedition law is as follows—

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.[5]

Initially, the section utilised the word “disaffection” which when interpreted referred to acts which  civil disobedience. Consequently, the words “contempt” and “hatred”  were added to the section in 1898. This gave way for governments to persecute politicians and journalists who committed what is known as “thought crimes.”

The British era in India wielded the provision of IPC-124A to suppress and quash the Indian independence movement. A notable instance would be in 1922 when Mahatma Gandhi was found to be seditious and imprisoned under IPC-124A.

During trial, Gandhi himself argued that“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. If one has no affection for a person, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence. But the section under which Mr. Banker and I are charged is one under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime.

While the Indian Constitution was being drafted, the Constituent Assembly realized that Section124A was not in consonance with Article 19, which guarantees rights to freedom of speech and expression. Moreover, Article 19(2), which refers to reasonable restrictions to free speech, doesn’t  include “sedition.”

However, due to the legislative inaction and the lack of political the section wasn’t repealed and rather, the task of annulling it was left to the judiciary. In 1950, the Punjab-Haryana High Court in the case of Tara Singh Gopi Chand v. The State[6] ruled Section 124-A to be unconstitutional. In 1958, the Allahabad High Court in Ram Nandan v. State[7] held that Section 124A is ultra vires the Constitution.

However, in 1962, the Supreme Court of India in the case of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar[8] upheld the validity of IPC-124A. The Court stated that speeches against political parties government were not illegal, however they shouldn’t “incite people to violence” or create “public disorder.” Despite the specific applicability of Section 124A, many successive governments have used this section to suppress political dissent.

Some recent examples include—

In the year 2012-2013 there were protests which took place against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. Due to this, an approximate of 8,856 people were charged with sedition.

In 2012, Aseem Trivedi was indicted with sedition charges over political cartoons showcased corruption high ranking India’s politicians.

Furthermore, in 2016, Amnesty International India was charged by Bangalore police for sedition as there were “pro-Pakistan” slogans cited at their event.

In 2019, in Jharkhand, more than 11,200 Adivasis, indigenous or tribal people, were charged with sedition for protests to amendments made to land tenancy laws. And the list goes on.

THE LEGAL STAND OF SEDITION AFTER THE KEDAR NATH DECISION

Following the landmark case of Kedar Nath, the Supreme Court’s test of sedition as assertion on incitement of “imminent violence” has been reaffirmed in many subsequent rulings such as Indra Das v State of Assam,[9] S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram[10] and Arup Bhuyan v State of Assam.[11]

In the case of Indra Das v State of Assam, the a part of the ULFA which was an outlawed organization. He was also accused of murdering an individual, however there was no evidence for the sane. Using the court’s decision in the Kedar Nath case, the Court observed that the accused could not be held guilty as he could not be connected to any  seditious activity.  

The Court observed in S. Rangarajan v P. Jagjivan Ramthe impact of the remarks must be measured from the standards of sensible, strong-minded, resolute, and brave persons, and not those of feeble and indecisive minds, nor of those who smell peril in every opposing point of view.”

In a subsequent judgment, in the Balwant Singh v State of Punjab the Supreme Court struck a  sedition charge with reference to anti-Indian slogans— “Khalistan Zindabad…Hindustan Murdabad.” According to the judgement even informal statements are not seditious as long as it does not affect public order by incitement of violence.

The Supreme Court has given a limited interpretation to the definition of Sedition. According to the Supreme Court in the Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar Verdict (1962) the court stated “that the allegation of sedition may only be supported in the occasion of incitement to violence in a speech, not for advocacy.”[12]

Justice A P Shah in 2017 expanded the Kedar Nath decision and stated that the Apex Court upheld the constitutionality of the provision of sedition, however it restricted its implementation to acts which encompassed the tendency or intention to create disorder, or incitement to violence. It contrasted these activities from the use of “vigorous language” or “extremely forceful speech” which is critical of the government

SEDITION VIS-À-VIS FREEDOM OF PRESS: A ‘CHILLING EFFECT’ IN THE INDIAN LEGAL REGIME

The right to free speech and expression is one of the most important of fundamental rights. However, the sedition laws in this country has essentially limited this privilege. The increasing surge in the enforcement of the charge of sedition is used to target journalists, human rights activists and public intellectuals. Such an increase has generated serious concerns with reference to the undemocratic nature of these archaic laws enacted during the British colonial administration.

Arrests made under the provision of Section 124A have sparked public outrage and has led to questioning of the applicability of the provision in a constitutional democracy.

In the case of Sanskar Marathe v State of Maharashtra[13] cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was imprisoned on the ground of sedition because his caricatures and posters criticized the parliament, constitution, and India’s national flag. Thereby, the Bombay High Court issued certain rules and guidelines which were required by the police to follow when invoking sedition charges against an individual.

The court in the case of  Shreya Singhal v Union of India[14] provided and highlighted the distinction between incitement and advocacy. The Court was determined that comprehension of free speech is dependent on 3 notions. The first notion is conversation, the second notion is advocacy, and the third notion is incitement.

Article 19(1) allows for a simple debate or promotion of a certain cause, notwithstanding how unpopular it actually is (a). On the other hand, Article 19(2) is applicable only where such advocacy or debate reaches a  the level of being provocative.

In modern age, the law related to sedition can be viewed as being antiquated as it mandates citizens not to harbour disdain, hatred or hostility for the government. Many have viewed that levying sedition charges solely based on written or spoken words ought to be discouraged.

Thereby, in the present form of sedition there exists a grey area among the actual legislation and application of the law. The sedition charges have been viewed to be employed randomly in several cases as there exists no set formula. Therefore there is a requirement to change the law so as to reduce the gaps and the grey areas.

On the other hand, there exist arguments in favour of such regulations as it is necessary evil in India, where there are many destabilizing forces at play. The purpose of such legislation is to prevent evil actions that promote “public disruption” and “violence”.

A very recent case occurred on June 3, 2021. The Apex Court in the case of Vinod Dua v Union of India[15] quashed the FIR against Vinod Dua who was a senior journalist charged for sedition through his YouTube channel that involved critical statements about the Government and the Prime Minister. The FIR was lodged by a BJP leader.

The Court observed that “Every journalist is entitled to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh decision. Mere dissent does not amount to Sedition unless the said dissent results in inciting violence against the State.”

The said judgement attracted applause from various media houses as well as the Editors Guild of India [EGI]. They stated that the judgement was a step towards the end of the chilling effect caused by sedition legalities on the freedom of the press.

It is critical that governments should carefully adhere to safeguards laid down by the Supreme Court before the registration of  an FIR under Section 124A.

Dissenting political speech is important to hold government officials accountable for their actions and to and voice grievances for their redressal. A Government only be “by the people and for the people” when dissenting speech is protected.

With an increase in nationalist rhetoric, voicing of dissenting opinion is considered an act of courage and sedition law merely exists to stifle diverse opinions and intimidate citizens.

In a democracy, protection of dissenting political speech should be championed as done by advanced Western democracies. For instance, US political speech enjoys a “preferred position” in the hierarchy of the Constitution. In the case of  Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court of US introduced “imminent lawless action” test to adjudge what falls under the purview of a “seditious action.”

The majority was: “Constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of lawviolation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

On the other hand, Australia doesn’t have express protection of  free speech in Constitution. Yet it has the legal regime for the protection of political speech. In the case of Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v. Commonwealth High Court held that political speech is protected from criminal prosecution.

In India, a repeated use of Section 124-A 1by law enforcement has garnered large media attention. This has a cascading impact which deters dissenting opinion.

The Preamble for the Constitution of India propounds the “liberty of thought and expression which is upheld by Article 19(1)(a). However, while IPC-124A exists it is conflicting and therefore free speech and expression is impossible.

CONCLUSION

It is concerning archaic British colonial laws are still utilised in modern day judicial system of India. The notion of sedition in India is influenced and finds it’s roots in colonial ideals. It has been well documented that sedition has been used as a tool to suppress any and all forms of criticism against the State administration rather than those actions which are used to only incite violence against the State.

Moreover, there does not exist any explicit rights available to the freedom of press and thereby allows for authorities to exploit this gap or loophole to prevent criticism. Statistics show that such attacks on press citing sedition as a ground increased manifold in the year of 2019 and 2020. Greater than 40% of the press attacks of 154 reporters between 2010 and 2020 jailed for their professional job were in 2020 individually.

Nevertheless, the press has since time immemorial played a crucial role in aiding the society over the years. For instance, the press revealed flaws in Aarushi Talwar’s murder and forced notable measures to be taken.

Moreover, the freedom of press is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters without Borders [RSF] is an organization which evaluates nations based on their level of freedom of press.

Therefore, the existence of an archaic provision of Section 124-A is obsolete in a State which ensures achievement of progression. The punishment associated with the provision makes it draconian in nature. If continued, such provision gives free reign to a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression, which is against Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Therefore there is a need alteration in India’s sedition laws in consonance with the transitions in society for the country to truly progress in letter and spirit.  


[1] 22 ILR Bom 112 (1898).

[2] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), s.124-A.

[3] E Barendt, ‘Interests in Freedom of Speech: Theory and Practice’ in Kam Fan Sin (ed), Legal Explorations: Essays in Honour of Professor Michael Chesterman (2003) 175.

[4] AIR 1950 SC 124.

[5] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), s.124-A.

[6] 1951 CriLJ 449.

[7] AIR 1959 All 101.

[8] 1962 AIR 955.

[9] 3 SCC 380 (2011).

[10] 2 SCC 574 (1989).

[11] 3 SCC 377 (2011).

[12] “Sedition in India: Colonial Legacy, Misuse and Effect on Free Speech” EPW Engage, Feb. 17, 2021.

[13] Cri PIL 3 Bom (2015).

[14] 12 SCC 73 (2013).

[15] WP (Criminal) No 154/2020.

Author: Linda Francesca Macedo Borges, Symbiosis Law School, Pune

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

LAW OF SEDITION: AN ATTEMPT TO CURB FREE SPEECH

Reading time : 12 minutes

INTRODUCTION

Sedition is defined as the illegal acts done of inciting people against the Government in power. Sedition is any act or speech which incites anybody to form of anti-national views against a Government or is probable to disrupt the public peace or harmony of the state. The punishment for seditious offences is harsh with minimum seven years of imprisonment which may extend to life imprisonment. It is a cognizable, non- bailable and non-compoundable offence triable by the Court of Sessions. Section 124A[1]of the Indian Penal Code tells that the prosecution must prove to the hilt that the intention of the accused is to bring into hatred or contempt or excite any form of anti-national views towards the Government of India or Government of the State in India. Sedition is a permissible restriction under Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution which states that a reasonable restriction may be imposed by the government.

The recent incident of invoking sedition charges against the environment activist Disha Ravi in the light of ongoing farm bill protest has once again given fuel to the ongoing debate on the validity of the laws relating to sedition. In the era of 21stcenturyIndia is standing at the door of becoming a developed country having undergone drastic changes as a country from the time of colonialism. Indian legislature has made immense progress covering various fields of legislation. For the development of nation, law is not the tool for development indeed a good law is the tool for development. Almost all the laws that India has today either belong to the colonial time or have their roots from that period. Out of these laws many were implemented just for the oppression of the Indian ‘subjects’ but unfortunately they have found their place in the post-independence period also and have become a matter of great controversy just like the laws relating to sedition.

This paper focuses on how the laws related to sedition become an attempt to curb the free speech of citizens of India. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of cases filed under Section 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) increased by 160% while the rate of conviction dropped to 3.3% in 2019 from 33.3% in 2016, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).[2] The law relating to sedition is grossly being misused in our country as there are obstacles in its implication uniformly to all the cases since the Indian scenario has changed in the 146 years from the time it was enacted.

HAPHAZARD APPLICATION OF SEDITION LAW IN INDIA

The position of the sedition law is essentially that of suppressing free speech and free expression of thought, both of which are unpopular in recent years. The most famous victim of Sec 124A, tried in 1897, was Lokmanya Tilak for his writings in his newspaper Kesari. He was sentenced to prison, as was Mahatma Gandhi for his writings in Young India. Such cases reinforced the perception that this law was for muzzling freedom of speech and expression, and browbeating government’s critics and activists. The government’s character changed in 1947, but its propensity for recourse to this law remains unchanged.[3]Sedition became a major controversy in the case where a cartoon artist Asim Trivedi of Bengal was charged with sedition for publishing some comic cartoons in the newspaper which had reference to the then chief minister of the state.[4]Which shows that how the sedition law is arbitrarily applied in India.

  • Sedition is an offence which existed in our Indian Penal Code (IPC) before we got Independence because the colonial master wished to penalize anybody who was trying to overthrow the state. But the irony is that in independent India, of late, this provision is being used to bully and terrorize citizens. Sedition is a very specific and a very serious offence, and when it is used to silence and terrorize the ordinary citizen who is raising a grievance; it is terrorism by the state.[5]
  • International view over misuse of sedition law in India

Recently, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet made remarks during 46th session of the Human Rights Council while referring to the farmers protest in India. She said, “Charges of sedition against journalists and activists for reporting or commenting on the protests & attempt to curb freedom of expression on social media are disturbing departures from essential human rights principles”.[6]

Another recent report by US based democracy watchdog Freedom House which downgraded status of India from “free” to “partly free” with the score 67 out of 100 with the bifurcation of scores on Political Rights and Civil Liberties with 34 out 40 and 33 out of 60 respectively.

Numerous sedition cases were brought during 2020 against people who protested in opposition to the CAA, including an apparent mass criminal complaint filed by police in Jharkhand State in January against some 3,000 people who participated in such a demonstration. The same month, police brought a sedition case against a student in Karnataka for holding up a “Free Kashmir” poster. Also, during the year, authorities invoked a section of the IT Act to penalize online speech, including critical discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Kolkata police arrested a woman under the IT Act for allegedly spreading false information about a doctor contracting the virus. Similar arrests under the act in response to discussion of the pandemic were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Mizoram, and Rajasthan.[7]

JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION ON SEDITON LAW

The first case was registered for the offence was Queen Empress v. Jogendra Chunder Bose (also known as Bangobasi case) in 1891, when the editor of a newspaper called Bangobasi was charged for sedition. However, he was released on bail and the charges were dropped as the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.[8] Another case which led to the criticism of the law on sedition was Annie Besant v. Advocate General of Madras which was dealt with Section 4(1) of the Indian Press Act, 19109. The court adhered to the earlier interpretations given by the courts and confiscated the alleged seditious material of Annie Besant’s printing press.[9]

Further, Mahatma Gandhi in 1922 was charged along with others for three articles in a weekly called Young India. This trial was presided over by Justice Strongman. The Judge expressed his inability to not hold him guilty of sedition and sentences him 6 years’ imprisonment. Mahatma Gandhi made a very famous remark with regard to law of sedition. “Section 124A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the I.P.C. designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by the law. If one has no affection for a person, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.”[10]

Immediately after the Constitution came into force, the Supreme Court was called upon to decide cases related to restrictions on freedom of speech. Initially, in Brij Bhushan v. The State of Delhi (1950)[11] and Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras,[12] the court decisively favored free speech and other civil liberties, pre-censorship and bans were rejected for restricting fundamental rights Article 19(1)(a). The court said freedom of speech could not be restricted except on grounds enumerated in Article 19 (2).

In Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar,[13] the Supreme Court was called to examine whether an intemperate speech delivered by a member of the Forward Bloc was seditious. The court held that speech or writing in which ‘subverting the government by violent means’ is implicit including talk of ‘revolution’ is seditious. So, not just incitement, even a failed attempt to incite is an offence. In Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab,[14] the prosecutrix relied on the earlier ruling, but the court held that unless there is public disorder merely raising a pro-Khalistan slogan cannot attract section 124A. In Bilal Ahmed Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh,[15] the Supreme Court dropped sedition charges and lamented that the law was being casually invoked to infringe on citizens’ liberty.

Recently, a sessions court in Delhi has made strong observation against the use of sedition law to curb dissent by putting dissenting citizens behind the bars. In the order granting bail to 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, by Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana observed that, “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic nation.  They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies”. Further, the court also added that, “Difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent or for that matter, even disapprobation, is recognized legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies. An aware and assertive citizenry is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy”.[16]

In an outspoken interview a recently retired judge of the Supreme Court has said regarding Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, Justice Deepak Gupta says that it is used by governments to create fear in the citizenry to prevent or throttle dissent. He said the law is widely misused and, worse, cases of its misuse are increasing “exponentially”.[17]

Another recent incident in the light of sedition law, in which the plea was filed in Supreme Court against the former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah alleged that he made the live statement for restoring Article 370 with the help of China and also alleged that he is trying to hand over Kashmir to China so that he should be prosecuted for sedition under section 124A of IPC. The plea was heard by bench comprising of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta dismissed the case on 3rdMarch 2021 and also imposed the fine of 50,000 on petitioners by stating that The expression of a view which is a dissent from a decision taken by the Central Government itself cannot be said to be seditious. There is nothing in the statement which we find so offensive as to give a cause of action for a Court to initiate proceedings. Not only that, but the petitioners also have nothing to do with the subject matter and this is clearly a case of publicity interest litigation for the petitioners only to get their names in press. We must discourage such endeavors”[18]

EQUILIBRIUM BETWEEN FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND SEDITION LAW

Freedom of speech and expression being a Fundamental Right mentioned under Article 19(1) (a)[19]of the Constitution of India which gives priority over the sedition law. In case of Kedarnath Singh v. the State of Bihar,[20]The court said that section 124A of IPC can be enforced against anyone only when his act has provoked widespread violence. India’s sedition law has its root from colonial era (British raj) through these laws Britishers used to suppress the Wahabi movement and mutiny against British government.

Recently, addressing webinar organized by Livelaw on Right to Dissent retired justice Deepak Gupta said that, “Right to dissent is a hallmark of the democracy. Even if one party comes into power, it is not immune to criticism and right to dissent allows such criticism and right to dissent allows such criticism. There can be no progress if we stifle dissent allows such criticism. There can be no progress if we stifle dissent”.[21] The Freedom of speech and expression enshrined in our Constitution is an essential ingredient of Democracy, but this right is not absolute in itself, it must be subjected to reasonable restrictions enshrined in Article 19 (2). The Hon’ble Supreme Court while explaining the relationship between a democratic society and Freedom of speech opined that in a democratic set- up, it is the right of the people to be kept informed about current political, social, economic and cultural life as well as the burning topic and important issues of the day in order to enable them to consider and form a broad opinion about the same and the way in which they are being managed, tackled and administered by the Government.[22] Thus, merely a constructive criticism does not amount to sedition, In case of Arun Jaitley v. State of U.P.,[23]Allahabad High Court opined that a critique by a writer of a judgment of the Supreme Court on National Judicial Appointment Commission does not amount to sedition; it is merely a constructive criticism.

By striking a balance between both the Sedition and Freedom of speech the apex court of our Country in the above-mentioned cases explicitly explained that every criticism of government does not amount to sedition except if it brings or attempt to bring hatred or contempt or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government of India.

CONCLUSION

“It is far more ignominious to die by justice than by an unjust sedition”

  • Blaise Pascal

Sedition in itself is a comprehensive term and it embraces all those practices, whether by word, deed, or writing, which tends to disturb the tranquility of the state and it described as disloyalty in action and the law sedition as all those practices which have the object of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order. India is a democratic country which implies that every individual of our country has the fundamental right to express their opinion, denying them their right to express would abridges the essence of democracy. A democracy can work fullest to their extent only when the people of that democracy must know about their basic Rights and Duties as well towards the nation.

“The sedition law needs reconsideration”- Dr. Justice (Retd.) Balbir Singh Chouhan[24]. If we see the recent trends of application of Sedition Law in India, we must say that it is applied in a very arbitrary manner that is why its proper scrutiny is very much important in order to establish a exact relationship between the sedition and freedom of speech and expression.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BOOKS REFERRED

  • RATANLAL & DHIRAJLAL, THE INDIAN PENAL CODE as amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, 34th Edition
  • J.N PANDEY, THE CONSITUTIONAL LAW INDIA, CENTRAL LAW AGENCY, 56th Edition.

ARTICLES REFERRED

STATUTES REFERRED

  • Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • Constitution of India.

INTERNATIONAL REPORT


[1]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, 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. Explanation1. The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. Explanation2. 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.

[2]Tripathi Rahul, Arrests under sedition charges rise but conviction falls to 3%, Economic Times, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/arrests-under-sedition-charges-rise-but-conviction-falls-to-3/articleshow/81028501.cms?from=mdr

[3] Ramachandaran Shastri, Section 124A: The Case Against the Much-misused Sedition Law, 27th February, 2020, Outlook Magazine, https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/opinion-section-124a-the-case-against-the-much-misused-sedition-law/347936

[4]Anti-corruption cartoonist Aseem Trivedi arrested on sedition charges, INDIA TODAY, (Sep. 09, 2012), http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/anti-corruption-cartoonistaseem-trivedi-arrested-on-seditioncharges/1/216643.html

[5]Sriram Jayant, Should the sedition law be scrapped?, The Hindu, march 06, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/should-the-sedition-law-be-scrapped/article30993146.ece

[6] 46th session of the Human Rights Council, Item 2 – High Commissioner’s Oral Update, Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 26 February 2021, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=26806&LangID=E

[7] Freedom in the world 2021, Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/country/india/freedom-world/2021

[8] Queen-Empress v. Jogendra Chunder Bose, ILR (1892) 19 Cal 35

[9] Annie Besant v. Advocate- General of Madras, AIR 1919 PC 31

[10] He called it the ‘prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.See A.G. NOORANI, INDIAN POLITICAL TRIALS: 1775-1947 235 (2009)

[11]1950 Supp SCR 245

[12]AIR 1950 SC 124

[13]1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769

[14]1994 SCC Supl. (2)  67 JT 1994 (2)

[15]1997 7 SCC 431

[16] State v. Disha A. Ravi, Bail Application No. 420/2021, FIR No. 49/2021 on 23.02.2021

[17]‘Govt. Uses Sedition Law to Create Fear, It Should Be Abolished’: Retired SC Judge, THE WIRE, 2nd March 2021, available at: https://thewire.in/government/watch-karan-thapar-justice-deepak-gupta-supreme-court-sedition-disha-ravi

[18]Rajat Sharma v. Union of India [WP (c) 80/2021]

[19] Art.19.The Constitution Of India Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc- (1) All citizens shall have the right- (a) to freedom of speech and expression.

[20] 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769

[21] Mehal Jain, In A Democracy People Should Have Faith in The Govt. Not Fear Of Govt: Justice Deepak Gupta, 20 Feb. 2021, available at: https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/justice-deepak-gupta-dissent-democracy-sedition-freedom-of-speech-remand-disha-170156?infinitescroll=1

[22] In Re Harijai Singh, AIR 1997 SC 73

[23] Arun Jaitley v. State of U.P.,2016 (1) ADJ 76

[24]Sedition law needs relook: Balbir Singh Chauhan, Law Commission chief, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, (Mar. 22, 2016),available at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/sedition-law-needs-relook-balbir-singh chauhan-lawcommission-chief/articleshow/51511513.cms

Author: NAYLA KHAN

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.