DOES THE LAW OF SEDITION IN INDIA PROTECT OR PROHIBIT RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

Sedition is an exhaustive term, and it includes all those practices, which by word, gesture, or in writing prone to disturb the peace of the State, and lead ignorant persons to undertake to undermine the Government and various laws of the country.

Law of Sedition in India: Explained

The law considers all those practices as sedition which aims to excite dissatisfaction, to create public disturbance, or to bring into hatred or contempt to the Government, and generally all endeavor to promote public disorder. The law of Sedition has its existence under section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The following essential ingredients are required to be established or present to make any person liable under the said provision of IPC:

  1. Accused wrote or spoke or made signs or visible representation or did some other acts;
  2. Accused brought or attempted to bring hatred or contempt thereby;
  3. Accused excited or attempted to excite disaffection;
  4. Such hatred or disaffection was towards Government of India;
  5. Government was established by law

In recent time, we have heard of several numbers of incidents or cases where the charge of Sedition is a common response of the authorities faced with any act of dissent in India. In the last month there have been many reports of sedition cases being filed against people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizen (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Application of Sedition Law: Response or Reaction

We have experienced in early January that sedition charges were filed against 3000 people for protesting against CAA in Jharkhand. Similarly, a sedition case was also filed against a student in Karnataka and a woman in Mumbai as they were holding placards carrying the message “Free Kashmir” during protests against CAA. Further, a Jawaharlal Nehru University student, Sharjeel Imam, is facing sedition charges in six states for his speech condemning CAA and violence in Assam. And the list is long enough to show that how the ambit of this law is so wide that it may easily restrict your liberty to put forward your dissenting perspectives. Apart from people participating in protests, sedition is also used to target students, activists, artists, intellectuals and other citizens. In real time, the ideology behind application of such law either as a response or reaction needs to be examined through the lens of just and fairness and keeping in mind the main object for which this provision has its emergence.

Sedition Law: Different Perspectives

In general perspective, Sedition law is defined to be vague and oppressive as it restricts the liberties of citizens to express and show their disagreement. On the contrary, in perspective of law this provision under IPC is intended to protect bone fide criticisms, to improve the conditions of the society and remedy the grievance of the people. In true sense, the explanations attached with Section 124A of IPC, give perfect freedom to criticize and improve disapprove the acts and measures of the Government. A citizen is free to speak and write as he thinks fit. But under the right of freedom he cannot invade the rights of the society, encourage insurrection and endanger public peace. The language may be forceful and strong to place legitimate and honest demands. It may be harsh and uncompromising. But it should not engender feelings of enmity, hatred and disloyalty against the Government.

Application of Sedition by the Government in cases like protests against CAA and NRC cases have become mandatory as the leaders of these protests were trying to mislead the protestors into believing that CAA and NRC were taking away their rights when the same was totally incorrect. In the recent times, these are probably the best examples of seditions being applied to facts.

Lakshmi Vishwakarma

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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