1. Section 124A in Chapter VI of Indian Penal Code deals with the Offence ‘Sedition’. Chapter VI deals with ‘Offences against the State’.
2. The word ‘Sedition’ is not mentioned in 124A. The Section reads as follows;
124-A. 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, 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.
Explanation 1.—The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
Explanation 2.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
Explanation 3.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
3. 124A was part of the Original Indian Penal Code of 1860 enacted by the British
4. The section was amended by the Indian Penal Code Amendment Act (IV of 1898.). As a result of the amendment, the single explanation to the section was replaced by three separate explanations as they stand now.
5. The maximum punishment for the Offence is Life Imprisonment
6. The offence is Cognizable, Non-bailable, Non-compoundable and triable by a Court of Sessions.
7. Many Indian freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were charged with Sedition during freedom Struggle.
8. The first case in India that arose under the section is known as the Bangobasi case (Queen-Empress v. Jagendra Chunder Bose)
9. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was convicted under this Section and sent to Mandalay, Burma from 1908 to 1914 for defending the Indian revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or self-rule in his newspaper ‘Kesari’ (Queen Empress Vs. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1897))
10. In 1959 Allahabad High Court declared that S.124A was ultra vires to Art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
11. The above decision was overruled by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Case
12. In Kedar Nath Case, the Constitution Bench had read down Section 124A. It was upheld by construing it narrowly and stating that the offence would only be complete if the words complained of have a tendency of creating public disorder by violence.
13. In Kedra Singh Case it is clarified that comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of the Government, without exciting those feeling which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal.
14. In Balwant Singh And Anr vs State of Punjab , Supreme Court held that the casual raising of the Slogans like Khalistan Zindabad etc once or twice by two individuals alone cannot be said to be aimed at exciting or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the Government as established by law in India.
15. In Bilal Ahmed Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh Supreme Court warned the Courts against the casual approach in invoking this section. It is held that ‘mechanical order convicting a citizen for offences of such serious nature like sedition and to promote enmity and hatred etc. does harm to the cause. It is expected that graver the offence, greater should be the care taken so that the liberty of a citizen is not lightly interfered with’.
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