• Manmohit Bhalla

SEDITION: A Brief Analysis Of Section 124(a) Of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The key to a healthy democracy is a strong opposition and focused and aware citizens and criticism, standing against the government and protesting is a right, a government with no opposition is none the less a dictator in the case of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan vs Union of India the apex court said that it is the fundamental right of a person to demonstrate peacefully about his grievances and for the cause that his grievances are heard, as it falls in the ambit of section 19 (1)(a) and 19(1)(b) The true sense of democracy can be achieved only if there are people who are against f the Indian constitution, namely the article 19(1) of the Indian constitution talks about one of the most important fundamental right ie Right to Speech and section 19(1)(b) talks about the right to a peaceful assembly without arms. now having a dissent towards the government never means that the dissent is against the country, this thin line of difference is the reason behind the controversies on section 124(a) of the Indian penal code, 1850 which talks about “SEDITION”.

History :

The section 124(a) of the Indian penal code,1860 was a law made to come into force by the British Raj in the year 1870, it was added in the Indian penal code by lord Macaulay which was a concept of Elizabeth England that if you are against the queen/king you were taken to be against the state and hence stopped from forming a rebellion, it was brought into force by the British raj as they feared the Wahabi rebellion and did not want to let the people form a rebellion in favour of the Wahabis which could have to loosen their grip on India. It was a tool of the British raj which even became the reason for the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. This section has been a controversy for decades Mahatma Gandhi once said “it a tool of the supreme in power to suppress the voice of dissent “ Jawaharlal Nehru called the section 124(a) of the Indian penal code “obnoxious” and said it would be better that we get rid of this section as soon as possible but it has been left just as a controversy by all the governments. According to a report by the national crime records bureau (NCRB) 194 cases have been filed against people after the passing of the citizenship amendment bill 2019 according to reports by the NCRB out of all the cases filed under section 124(a) of IPC only 4 have received a conviction. Which is a very serious outcome to be researched upon and which brings us down to a question that “if at all the seduction law is useful ?”

Talking about the interpretation of section 124(a) of the IPC, the supreme court in the case of Kedarnath vs the State of Bihar said that one could speak about independent views on a government but it should be peaceful without inciting violence or disturbing public order, moreover the Nath Singh v State of Bihar case marked a landmark judgement as in this judgement supreme court ruled out what all did not amount to sedition, the court said that a citizen of this country has a right to criticise the government, raise slogans against the government policies if he doesn't feel he is happy with them, but he can exercise his right in a manner in which he doesn't incite hatred or a incite the people to resort to violence to subvert the government by the use of violence.

Changes after the Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar verdict :

The court in the case of Kedarnath v State of Bihar 1962 took into account majorly 2 cases firstly the case of Niharendu Dutt Majumdar v King emperor 1942, in this case, also the court had interpreted the law of sedition and found out that incitement to create violence and a tendency to build a sense of public disorder in the society is an essential part of section 124(a) of the IPC. But soon after this judgement was passed the privy council in the case of king emperor v Sadashiv Narayan Bhalerao interpreted and found out that incitement to violence was not an essential part of the law of sedition. This made a big confusion as the court in its judgement s clearly interpreted the same law in two opposite manners, this confusion was brought to an end in the case of Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar 1962, the court clearly ruled out the interpretation made in the case of king emperor v Sadashiv Bhalerao case by the privy council and stated that the law of sedition was a law related to the security of the state which is solely dependent on the maintenance of law and order so incitement to violence and a tendency to public disorder was an essential part of section 124(a) IPC. So to summarize what the supreme court has said is that section 124(a) cannot be interpreted on literal terms and the two essentials to the section are :

  • the acts reported must be intending to have the effect of subverting the Government by use of violence

  • the acts reported of must be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace violation law and order, resort to violence and must incite violence among the mass.

Section 124(a)IPC manhandled

The government on 11 December 2019 brought into force a new bill (later law ) CAB ie: CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL which briefly explaining talks about giving citizenship to the religiously persecuted people belonging to 3 countries namely Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh of 5 religions namely Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Farsi or Christian. This law came under some serious opposition as people opposed the very fact of absence of only the Muslim religion from the list , people across the came out to the streets to protest against this law which resulted in the conversion of a peaceful protest into a violent rebellion against the government , a data from the Nation Crime Records Bureau shoes that 194+ cases of sedition have been filed just after the passing of the Citizenship Emmental Act , cases of police brutality and excessive use of force as been a constant topic of debate since the passing of this law , the law of sedition has been a law which has received criticism from mahatma Gandhi and even pandit Nehru , it was included in the election manifesto of the Indian national congress (INC) in the 2019 general elections , one thing that's remained common throughout the years after our independence is that many people promised to scrap this law but none actually did it, the reason behind it is that it is been used as a tool to shut the voices of the people of opposition, and that's why it is becoming more important to remove this section.

Certain cases are known but most of the cases are unknown and are just filed to force a person to stop opposing a specific government which is indeed not a reason why this section was either made or interpreted, and these arguments are made more firm but the report of the national crime records bureau which says that since 2014 to the year 2018 the total cases which found conviction was just 4. This proves the way this section has been a reliable source of the people in power to shut the mouths of the people in opposition.

The present situation is seen and understood the problem is with the section itself as somebody correctly said, the essence of tyranny is in the making of harsh laws and then using those laws just on the people one has a problem with.


© The People Bookmark | 2020

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