Sedition Law: Overview

Under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, every citizen has the right to talk and express their opinions. However, this liberty is not unrestricted, and under Article 19, some legitimate limitations on freedom of speech and expression have been established and if a person does an act that is considered to be disrespectful of the Indian government through his words, signs, or representation, that act is punishable under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 124-A is a broad clause that includes acts of defamation of the government, barring legitimate criticism of specific laws or acts of administration. Anything which is considered disloyal or dangerous to the state can be considered a crime which is often known as sedition. Under the Indian Penal Code,1860 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 Government shall be punishable with Life Imprisonment”.[1] Sedition is classified as a high-value offence that violates the country's sovereignty. It is a

cognizable offence that authorises police to make an arrest without a warrant and to begin an investigation without the court's consent.

Sedition and freedom of Speech are directly related to each other. The concept of free speech has gained worldwide acclaim, with everybody agreeing that it is a fundamental human right. In India, such rights are enshrined in the Indian Constitution's Part III and Article 19. Because it is a citizen's right to obtain information and express thoughts and views with others within or outside India, the abovementioned right has no geographical boundaries. The courts have been given the authority to function as guarantors and protectors of citizens' rights. Article 19(1)(a) guarantees "freedom of speech and expression," but it is constrained by the limitation outlined in Article 19(2), which specifies the permitted legislative abridgement of the right to free speech and expression. The legitimacy of Section 124-A of the IPC was squarely challenged in Tara Singh v. State of Punjab [2] and it was held that this clause is unlawful because it restricted freedom of speech and expression in this instance. But later in Ram Nandan V. state [3], Allahabad High court held, that section 124-A was ultra vires to Article 19 (1)(a) of the constitution. According to the Court's interpretation of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, giving speeches that encourages violence and also amounts to public disorder or any written work can be called seditious.

Sedition Law is made so that Citizens should not harbour animosity or contempt towards the legalised government. There are various dark places where there is a difference between actual law and its implementation due to which different activities take place which promotes violence and public disorder. So, to control this, various laws are needed to be amended. In the Indian Penal Code, sedition is classified as a high-value offence that violates the country's sovereignty. It is a cognizable offence that authorises police to make an arrest without a warrant and to begin an investigation without the court's consent. When it comes to charges of sedition, there are a few legal procedures to follow:


Go to the Jurisdictional Police Station:

It is a person's legal right to submit a complaint against someone who is committing a state-sponsored crime like sedition. A person can register a complaint with the local police station where the offence occurred.


Lodging an F.I.R:

When police organisations get any information concerning a cognizable offence, they prepare a written document called a First Information Report (F.I.R.). In the case of a seditious offence, it is usually filed by the person who first learns of the offence, but it can also be filed by a police officer.


How Police take Cognizance:

When a complainant provides credible information about a sedition offence, it is the responsibility of the police officer to investigate the charge. For such an offence, police have the authority to make an arrest without a warrant.


Investigation

The inquiry begins after the information is given to a police officer in charge of a police station. A magistrate has the authority to direct a police officer in charge to conduct an investigation into a cognizable offence such as sedition. A magistrate has the authority to take cognizance of an offence upon receiving a complaint, a police report, or information from anybody other than a police officer who has knowledge of the offence. Witnesses' attendance may be required in writing by a police officer.


Charge Sheet

After the investigation is completed, the police present a charge sheet that includes the F.I.R. copy, the complainant's statement, and witness statements, among other things.

Sedition has been defined as active disloyalty. The goal of a sedition statute is to incite dissatisfaction and insurgency, as well as to incite opposition to the government and impugn the administration of justice. Sedition is a societal crime since it encompasses all behaviours that cause behavioural disturbances in the state or lead to civil war, as well as those that defy the sovereign and create public disorder[4]. In a violation of Article 19, sedition is the most serious offence. As a result, sedition legislation should have explicitly included language that satisfied Article 19's limits (2). The goal of the Sedition Act's speech restrictions is to preserve national security. The Supreme Court's rules should be followed while interpreting and applying sedition statutes.


References

[1] Section 124A of IPC, 1860 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1641007/ (Retrieved on 30//01/2022)

[2] Tara Singh Gopichand v. State, AIR 1951 E.P. 27

[3] Ram Nandan v. State, AIR 1959 All. 101

[4] Nazir Khan v. State Of Delhi (2003) 8 SCC 461



This article is written by Sarvesh Kathpalia of Punjabi University, Patiala.

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