A case of alleged sedition has been registered in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur against 49 celebrities, including Ramchandra Guha, Aparna Sen, Mani Ratnam, and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who had expressed concern in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over growing incidents of mob lynching. What is the meaning of sedition?
Section 124 A of IPC 1860 “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 is punishable with imprisonment for life. For India, it’s a question of walking the fine line between liberty and security, tough choices and hard lessons. History of application of sedition law
- “Conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a State or monarch” can be considered as Sedition.
- The sedition law was incorporated into the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1870 as fears of a possible uprising plagued the colonial authorities.
Supreme Court order’s on sedition: Kedarnath Singh Vs State of Bihar, 1962
- Before Independence, the sedition law was used by the British to suppress the freedom movement.
- Ironically, the same draconian law has become a tool that the country is now using against its own people.
- During the colonial period section, 124-A was interpreted by the privy council in a way to suppress every act that expressed discontent against the govt.
But, the Supreme Court stated that Persons can be charged with sedition only if there is an incitement to violence in his speech or writing or an intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance in law and order. Maneka Gandhi case, 1978
- Constitution Bench of Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Sedition Act.
- The Maneka Gandhi judgment was a balanced judgment and is one of the best judgments that the Indian Supreme Court has ever given.
- The judgment’s importance can be seen today also because the way in which the bench construed Article 21 and expanded its horizons has given way for the resolving of problems left unsolved by the Parliament.
- The SC stated that Criticizing and drawing general opinion against the Govt. policies and decisions within a reasonable limit that does not incite people to rebel is consistent with the freedom of speech.
- It’s quite evident that this judgment has played an imperative role.
- The judgment while saved the citizens from unquestionable actions of Executive.
More importantly, in the Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab, where the sedition charges were removed even when there was an allegation of yelling ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ is a testimony to the fact that ‘incitement’ rather than ‘advocacy’ is the important element of section 124A. The sedition can’t be applied to instances of criticism of the government or a political functionary. Incitement to violence is the most crucial ingredient of the offense of sedition. Conclusion Freedom of Speech and Expression is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a). Article 19(2) imposed reasonable restrictions. An open letter against the fearful social system like mob lynching is no sedition. Democracy has no meaning without freedoms and sedition as interpreted and applied by the police and governments is a negation of it. Hence, before the law loses its potency, the Supreme Court, being the protector of the fundamental rights of the citizens has to step in. As of now, we can hope that reason prevails over politics when it comes to freedom. Also read: Sedition in India Under Section 124A of IPC Analysis Of Lynching Issue In India
- One of the most important judgments in this regard is Balwant Singh v. the State of Punjab, Supreme Court overturned the convictions for sedition (124A IPC) and Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. (153 A IPC).