The sedition law was part of the original IPC, which has stood the test of time in Indian conditions several time.
After Independence, the Section 124-A was indeed amended for methodical reasons yet remains noticeably the same — though very rarely used, as is to be expected.
A denunciation against the law of sedition is that its misuse is rampant and thus must be done away with.
‘Offences Against the State’
‘Offences Against Public Tranquility’
Re-examining the sedition law
- From a layman’s perspective, the issue of sedition would come into play only if the territorial integrity of India as well as the sovereignty of the country are questioned by an individual or a group.
- In other words, sedition is relevant only in the context of a demand for withdrawal .
- ‘Waging war’ with India or other unfriendly or unwelcoming acts against the country will be met by other legal provisions but cannot replace 124-A if a situation arises.
- A mere criticism of the government, or of governance, indeed of the institutions of governance, however harsh, will not qualify as sedition.
- Advocating or raising slogans about breaking up India, constitutes sedition.
Supreme Court’s Reasoning
- Afzal Guru, who carried out an attack on the high seat of democracy, the Indian Parliament, as one’s poster boy to advocate Bharat Ki Barbadi (with implication of separation of Kashmir) is sedition
- in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, a Division Bench had laid down the criterion stressing that a necessary component of sedition involves rebellion or use of arms, in conjunction with demand for separation from or dismemberment of India
- subsequent events in India, including the significant spread of Naxalism, the movement in Punjab, the earlier demand for a Tamil Eelam, surely have sedition somewhere in their composition; perhaps the very stringent Supreme Court conditions need to be revisited
- considering the backdrop of the Gorkhaland agitation, and similar problems elsewhere. So long as the demand is for a separate State, it surely is constitutional, subject to other laws in the method of expression; the issue of sedition needs to be considered only in the unlikely context of a demand of separation
Waving Pakistan’s flag in the course of a match, or praising Pakistan, cannot be sedition — the recent acts of some State governments to slap the charge of sedition on people are excessive as this is not the same as seeking freedom from India, or asking for the dismemberment of a territory from India
Zakir Naik, whom India is trying to extradite, claims he is a religious preacher and has neither advocated the break-up of India nor exhorted young men to join the Islamic State. But his words are insidious and possibly attract the sedition charge
Cases of Sedition
A recent protest in Bengaluru trains on the imposition of Hindi in Karnataka — is surely not a seditious act.
in another context, the Naga agitation essentially did not even recognise the sovereignty of India though it qualified as sedition, due to sensible political reasons the government did not invoke this clause.
The need for nuance
The word ‘sedition’ is thus extremely nuanced, and needs to be applied with caution and where its ‘use’ may be necessary.