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According to Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code

Whoever incites or attempts to incite hatred or contempt toward the government established by law in India through spoken or written words, signs, visible representations, or other means shall be punished with either a term of life in prison, to which a fine may be added, or a term of imprisonment that may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added, or with a fine.

This implies that it is unlawful and considered "sedition" to seek to foment "hatred," "contempt," or "disaffection" toward the government.

Justice Shah also explained:

The Court concluded that "raising of some lonesome slogans, a couple of times... which neither evoked any response or reaction from anyone in the public'' did not amount to sedition, for which a more overt act was required, rather than simply considering the "tendency" of the words to cause public disorder. The accused did not seek to "incite individuals to create unrest," and there was no actual "law and order concern," the court acknowledged.

Justice A P Shah (2017), while delivering the M N Roy Memorial Lecture, explained the Kedar Nath judgment further:

Despite limiting its application to "acts having the intention or inclination to create chaos, upset law and order, or instigate violence," the Court affirmed the validity of sedition. These actions were contrasted from "extremely forceful speech" or the employment of "vigorous phrases" that were harshly critical of the administration.


Over the years, India has had successful growth in all spheres—politically, economically, socially, and culturally. It has worked arduously to realize the goals it has set and is continuing moving forward. However, some government activities that have the potential to incite hostility and discontentment towards the Indian government have left some Indian residents dissatisfied.

The "Crown" was initially seen to be the supreme power, and its subjects were expected to demonstrate their loyalty to the former by not committing acts of sedition against them. But this was before American independence. After independence, the constitution now serves as the source of authority. There is a distinction between "elected representatives" and "government established by law," and this is why sedition that endangers the existence of the "state" is illegal.

Sedition is a crime against the state that is intended to incite animosity or hostility toward the executive branch of the government. Sedition is defined as "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 Govt. established by law, shall be punished, with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine." in Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code.

Laws relating to Sedition in India

The Indian legislature has several statute books that address the law of sedition. Section 124 A of the IPC defines sedition as an offence, as was already mentioned. But that clause deals with this offence in one of the clauses. The following provisions outline the definition of sedition and associated penalties:

Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)

The main provision that can be consulted regarding this crime is Section 124 A, which defines the offence of sedition. Under this clause, life in prison is the harshest penalty that can be imposed on an offender.

The 1973 version of the Criminal Procedure Code

Any publication that violates section 124 A of the IPC may be seized or forfeited by the government under section 95 of the CrPC. 11 Additionally, a search warrant may be issued by the authorities in order to forfeit a publication. Two requirements must be met in order for this law to be put into effect: (1) the material must be penalised under Section 124A; and (2) the government must provide justification for its decision to forfeit the material that is punishable in this way.

Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967

Any conduct that "supports claims of secession, questions or disrupts territorial integrity, and causes or intends to induce disaffection against India would fall within its ambit," according to section 2(o) of the Act, is defined as criminal activity. 12 In addition, Section 13 describes the penalty for the offence, which may include up to seven years in jail and a fine.

Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1911

The Act was created when Britain was in power and is still a component of our legal system. A public assembly in a declared area may be prohibited by the District Magistrate/ Commissioner of the Police under Section 5 of the Act if, in their opinion, it is likely to foster dissension or sedition or to disturb the peace of the community.

Kedarnath singh v. State of Bihar - Supreme Court of India

Bench: N. Rajagopala Ayyangar, S.K. Das, A.K. Sarkar, J.R. Mudholkar, and C.J. Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha

Author of judgement: Chief Justice Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha

Decision: January 20, 1962

Due to ongoing national actions that are in some way connected to the crime of sedition, the problem of sedition has recently gained attention. There has long been pressure to change this law because it is thought to be a colonial-era statute that has no application to the nation's current circumstances.

Since students at Jawaharlal Nehru University began shouting anti-national slogans in the previous three to four years, which resulted in the arrest of the student leader on charges of sedition, this problem has gained momentum and attracted the attention of both national and international media. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code defines the crime of sedition as engaging in specific acts that incite hatred, contempt, or disaffection toward the legally established government of India.

Facts Of The Case

The case relates to the use of improper party terminology. Kedarnath Singh, a member of the Forward Communist Party of Bihar, used the terms "dogs" to refer to C.I.D. agents and "goondas" to refer to the Indian National Congress party. He continued by stating his belief in the coming revolution, in which the capitalists, zamindars, and Congress leaders of India, who have made it their profession to plunder the nation, will be reduced to ashes and on He also targeted Vinobha Bhave's land redistribution initiatives.

He was charged with sedition under Section 124A and public mischief under Section 505 based on the phrases he used and the statements he made, and as a result, he was given a one-year sentence of solitary confinement.

The case was appealed to a single bench of the Patna High Court, which confirmed the conviction and dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the appellant's statement was unquestionably seditious as a whole and that the charge against him was nothing more than a vilification of the government. It is not a speech that criticises a specific government policy or a specific legislation.

In response to a subsequent appeal, the case was heard by the Supreme Court's division bench. Because the constitutionality of sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code was at issue, the case was referred to the constitutional bench. After reviewing the case's judicial history, the Apex court encountered two contradictory rulings from the Federal Court in Niharendu Dutt Majumdar v. The King[iii] and The Privy Council in King-Emperor v. The Supreme Court made reference to both judgments and stated that it believed that if the Federal Court's ruling and interpretation were confirmed, the contested portions would be subject to legal restrictions on the fundamental rights to free expression.

The challenged portions, however, could be considered unconstitutional under Article 19(1)(a) read in conjunction with Article 19 of the Constitution if the Privy Council's decision and interpretations are accepted (2). By doing this, the scope of the contested portions was limited and each of them received confirmation of their constitutionality. As a result, the appeal was dismissed, and another connected appeal was referred to the concerned High Court.


1. Do Sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code violate Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution when read in conjunction with Article 19(2)?

2. Does the act of sedition entail the intent or propensity to cause disorder, to disrupt the peace, to instigate violence, or any combination of these?


Regarding the first problem, the Supreme Court ruled that maintaining law and order is a fundamental concern that must be addressed for the security of the state, and that doing so entails punishing those who violate the law and commit crimes against the state.

The right to freedom of speech and expression should be completely protected in democratic countries, but some limitations are necessary to ensure the security and stability of the state. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that Sections 124-A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code violated the Constitution of India when read in conjunction with Article 19(1)(a) (2).

In addressing issue number two, the court found that both decisions are contradictory. If the Privy Council's interpretation of the law is correct, the sections would be deemed unconstitutional in light of Art. 19(1)(a) because there would be no evidence of any tendency toward disorder or intent to disturb law and order necessary for the offence of sedition to be fully committed (2).

As a result, the Federal Court's interpretation that the essence of the crime of sedition is the incitement of violence or the propensity or intent to cause public disturbances through spoken or written words that have the propensity or effect of inciting hatred or contempt for the legally established government or fostering disaffection in the sense of disloyalty to the State was accepted, and the Section was given a restrictive interpretation.

The term "sedition" as it is used today

The Supreme Court heard a new challenge to Section 124A's constitutionality and granted it the meaning that is still in effect today. According to the court's interpretation, which was based on the Niharendu Dutt Majumdar v. King Emperor decision, encouragement to violence must be present for an act to qualify as seditious. Sedition was therefore to be viewed as a crime against public peace rather than a criminal that was intended for the very existence of the state.

There are six justifications listed in Article 19(2), and the court believed that "security of the state" might be one of them that could preserve Section 124A's legitimacy. The Supreme Court applied the rule that, when there are multiple possible interpretations of a legal provision, it must uphold the interpretation that renders the provision constitutional when interpreting the provision. Any interpretation that would make the clause unlawful would have to be disregarded. It was decided that every seditious conduct must be accompanied by an attempt to instigate violence and unrest in order to be legal. The Court supported the use of laws relating to sedition for the purpose of public peace and security of the state.

When the law was first established, the crown had all of the supreme power, and all of the subjects were required to owe personal allegiance to the crown. However, after independence, things have changed. The constitution now serves as the source of authority. Sedition is regarded as an offence that undermines or threatens the survival of this "state," if the government constituted by the law differs from the elected representatives.


Since the law of sedition was created in England, there have always been inconsistencies in its application, which is inconsistent and uncertain in all circumstances. Due to the fact that it was employed to oppress the populace as and when it suited their interests and undermined their power, its first application was kept ambiguous and imprecise. By stifling statements that endangered the legitimacy of the state, it served as a weapon to forward political objectives.

Additionally, the courts have not provided a precise and unequivocal definition of the offence. The way the law of sedition has been applied in recent years has generated a great deal of debate. Even if our viewpoint on sedition was established in 1960, it is still frequently used as a form of harassment. In the past 50 years, Indian culture has advanced rapidly, and individuals have demonstrated "tolerance" toward what would be considered "incitement to violence." Government now has a different meaning than it did in the past due to changes in its character.

The argument that it is used to maintain the public also isn't very persuasive because sedition is now utilised to address regional issues and issues that are generally categorised as defamation of the elected representative.

It would be wise to follow England's lead, where it was abolished after being determined to be unnecessary. Several other clauses, which can very well be used, address the offences connected to the public tranquilly. The legislature and judiciary need to come up with updated changes that either repeal the laws connected to sedition or amend them so that they are no longer arbitrary and can be implemented consistently. India today needs to overcome this restricted mindset of not tolerating legitimate criticism as well. The current form of this colonial rule should no longer be utilised to restrict residents' rights. In a democracy, everyone has the right to criticise the government, therefore doing so shouldn't be seen as "anti-national" or as a sign of betraying one's country. Criticism is also not seditious because it doesn't call for violence. Since criticism is the foundation of democracy, sedition laws must be amended to ensure that the democratic process runs smoothly.

This article is written by Sameer Sharma of Kirit P. Mehta School of Law NMIMS.

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