Libertatem Magazine

Sedition Law & its Constitutional Validity in India

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Sedition in India is a disputed topic. Since its insertion under section 124A of Indian Penal Code, it has been used as an instrument by the government in power to limit criticism & disagreement or dissent. It is a type of law that a government in power always favours & the opposition always opposes. In this article, we will look at the different factors related to Sedition under Section 124A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Furthermore, we will discuss prominent case laws related to sedition, pre-independence & post-independence situations of sedition. We will also examine the constitutional validity of sedition in India & its current position.


What is sedition?

Sedition according to section 124A of IPC means – 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 established by law in India.

In basic terms, we can understand sedition as if any person by words either spoken or written or by signs or ant visible representation tries to promote hatred, enmity & disaffection among the people against the Government of India. Sedition is amongst one of the situations where The Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression granted by Article 19(1)(a) of The Indian Constitution can be restricted.

Punishment of Sedition– Whoever is guilty of Sedition shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

The nature of the offence under section 124A is cognizable & it is non-bailabe, it is triable by the court of session & this offence is not listed under the category of Compoundable offences.

The Pre-Independence situation of Sedition in India

The sedition law was initially drafted in India by Thomas Macaulay in 1837, but it was not inserted in the Indian Penal Code in 1860.

In 1870 sedition was inserted in IPC under Section 124A in Chapter VI of IPC which deals with offences against state.

The very first significant case of sedition was reported in 1891 which was Queen Empress v. Jogendra Chunder Bose & Ors, 1892- In this case, the editors of a Bengali magazine were accused of their critique over the British Government policies, related to the Age of Consent Act, 1891. The accused argued that sedition only punishes the writing of seditious material, they also contended that punishing citizens for practising their rights is going against the actual intention of the law.

The Hon’ble Calcutta High Court held stated that publishers cannot be discharged of legal liability on the grounds that they had not written that seditious content. The court stipulated that only disaffection against the government is punished so the offence of sedition does not curtail the right of citizens.

Another landmark case on sedition before independence was Queen empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak- In this case, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged for sedition for writing & publishing an article in the newspaper related to the Maratha warrior Shivaji praising his conduct against the British government.

In this case, the court gave the interpretation of the term “disaffection” which basically means hatred, disliking, contempt & every form of ill-will against the government.

The judgement, in this case, resulted in the 1989 amendment of Section 124A of IPC.

The Post-independence situation of Sedition in India

Sedition law was somehow restricting the Freedom of Speech & Expression provided by The Indian Constitution to each & every citizen of India. There were many disputes & decisions related to sedition law after the independence.

  • In the case of Romesh Thapar v. The state of Madras- The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that there is no limitation or restriction on freedom of speech & expression unless there is a possibility of public disorder or an attempt to bring down the government.
  • In the case of Ram Nandan v. State of Uttar Pradesh- The Hon’ble Court stated that Section 124A of IPC is highly questionable & undesirable. It must be repealed as soon as possible.
  • In the case of Tara Singh Gopi Chand v. State of Punjab- The Hon’ble Punjab High Court held that Section 124A of IPC is unconstitutional as it contravenes the freedom of speech & expression provided by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

Constitutional Validity of Sedition in India

  • In Tara Singh v. State of Punjab –The court held that section 124A is unconstitutional & contravenes the right to Freedom of Speech & Expression guaranteed under Article19(1)(a).
  • In Ram Nandan v. State – The Hon’ble Allahabad High Court reversed Ram Nandan’s conviction & proclaimed Section 124A of IPC to be unconstitutional because- If disapproval or criticism without any intention to cause public disorder, can be stated as offence under section 124A of IPC then this section shall be repealed as it limits the freedom of speech & expression.
  • In Kedarnath v. State of Bihar – The Hon’ble Supreme Court reversed the judgement of Ram Nandan case & held Section 124A as constitutional but also stated that this section must be carefully interpreted & if given wider interpretation it would not pass the test of constitutionality. The Supreme Court in this case makes clear the difference between unfaithfulness towards the government & commenting upon the actions or the work of government without the intention of creating public disorder.
  • In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India – The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case held that one cannot be tried for sedition unless their speech or action or words used by them is offensive or inappropriate. Only the words & speech which cause inducement to imminent violence can be penalized. A mere use of words against government however unpleasant does not constitute the offense of sedition.

The Present state of Sedition in India

Recently, The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has quashed the Sedition case filed against a prominent journalist Mr. Vinod Dua in Himachal Pradesh.

Vinod Dua was charged for sedition for criticizing the strategies of the central government for handling the Covid-19 Lockdown & had also uploaded a video regarding the same on YouTube in 2020.

While quashing the case the Hon’ble court relied on the judgement of Kedarnath case in 1962 where the court upheld the constitutional validity of sedition law in India.

The court stated that free speech, discussions on the matters related to functioning of the government & its criticism & freedom of the press are substantial for the smooth & proper functioning of the process.

In this case, The Hon’ble Supreme Court also held that journalists will be granted protection under this judgement.

A genuine data shows that a total number of 93 cases related to sedition were filed in 2019, with 96 arrest & charge sheets were filed in 76 cases.

Recently, The Hon’ble Supreme Court in hearing of a plea regarding sedition charges against 2 Telugu news channels- TV 5 & ABN Andhrajyoti said that “We are of the view that the ambit & the scope of the provisions of Sections 124A, 153A & 505 of IPC needs an interpretation, particularly regarding the right of the electronic & print media to communicate news & information, even those that may be highly critical of the prevailing regime in any part of the nation”.


Sedition has become an instrument or a tool, not only to settle political disputes but also to restrict & limit the freedom of speech & expression. Day by day government & police forces are rampantly misusing the provisions of sedition. The interpretation of sedition is laid by the courts of India in many notable cases, but the real implementation of this law sometimes varies, which has resulted the people to label this law as draconian.

In the times where citizens are aware of their fundamental rights & duties, it is now high time to consider improvement in this law.





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