Section 124A of the IPC has been in the news lately, for a spate of prosecutions initiated under the Section. Therefore, this topic becomes extremely relevant for the exam.
A student may be called upon to decide whether in a particular case, a particular statement amounts to Sedition or not ? What is the test in that regard ? What will be the interplay of the offence of Sedition with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression ?
Now as to what statements amount to sedition – one may safely turn to the locus classicus on the subject, that is, the decision in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, 1962 AIR 955 (5 judges bench) where the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that : “Section 124A of the IPC cannot be interpreted literally. If interpreted literally, it is bound to become constitutionally incompatible and violative of rights under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution”. The Court has held that S.124A of the IPC has to be interpreted in a manner consistent with constitutional values of liberty.
The Court further went on to provide the acid test of Sedition. The Court held that the following two essential ingredients required to establish the crime of sedition under Section 124A :
- The acts complained of must be intended to have the “effect of subverting the Government” by violent means; and
- The acts complained of must be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace/ law and order by resort to violence and must incite violence.
Therefore, as per the judgment, mere slogan shouting against the State or the Government established by law which is not intended to have the “effect of subverting the Government” by violent means; and which is not intended to, nor has the tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace/ law and order by resort to violence; and which does not incite violence will not amount to the crime of sedition under section 124A. Similarly, criticism of government, howsoever acerbic is not sedition. The word government cannot be equated with one person either. It is the government as symbol of the state.
Therefore, as per the prevailing law, advocating overthrow of the State, howsoever undesirable it may be, still, as per the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court does not amount to sedition, unless there is incitement to violence, and more importantly, the incitement is to ‘imminent’ violence and taking up of arms by the people.
*Criminal Law Concepts, Simplified !