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Sedition: The conundrum between disloyalty against the govt and freedom of speech

If convicted for sedition, one may be charged with imprisonment up to 3 years and/or a fine, or imprisonment for life and/or a fine, or a fine.

January 09, 2020 / 08:17 PM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

Malavika Rajkumar & Kadambari Agarwal

“Sedition has been described as disloyalty in action, and the law considers as sedition all those practices which have for their object to excite discontent or dissatisfaction, to create public disturbance, or to lead to civil war; to bring into hatred or contempt the Sovereign or the Government, the laws or constitutions of the realm, and generally all endeavours to promote public disorder.”Nazir Khan vs. State Of Delhi 2003 (8) SCC 461.

A relic of India’s colonial past - the law on sedition is defined in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”). From when it was introduced in 1870, the Courts and public alike have deliberated and debated upon the meaning of the word “sedition”, and the evolving jurisprudence has led to the understanding that the following constitutes sedition:

Exciting Disaffection: Sedition is an attempt or an act to create feelings of hatred or contempt or disaffection (i.e. feelings of disloyalty or enmity) towards the legally appointed Government.
Inciting Violence: Courts have held in Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar that a citizen has a right to criticize or comment against the Government, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government or create any public disorder.
Word, Deed or Action: Sedition can be any act against the Government which may include those which are written, verbal or visual in nature.