India is a country where the people will fight if anyone speaks ill about their country, but there are times when few of them forget that this is their country and it is us who have the right to elect the Government and it is not only the duty of the Government or the other public officials to maintain peace in the country, but we as the citizens of the nation have equal responsibilities towards it. Some people forget everything for their own selfish needs and perform acts that disturb the public order and give rise to violence in society. Such people are punished under the laws of sedition and the violent acts done by them are known as seditious acts. Such offense is a crime where the police can arrest the accused without any warrant and start with the investigation. Sedition laws are very important to keep the nation free from people who are a threat to their very own country.
Our Indian Constitution has provided all its citizens with the freedom of speech and expression which is defined under Article 19(1) (a). The freedom provided also has certain restrictions which are defined under Article 19(2). Sedition is an offense defined under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It is defined as an offense that criminalizes speech that is regarded to be disloyal to or threatening to the State. The provisions mentioned in Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are wide and they cover the defamatory acts of the Government excluding the criticism in good faith of any particular act done by the administration.
Sedition is a crime that is against the society because it involves all such practices that eventually result in conduct disturbances in the state or sometimes lead to the civil war which contempt the sovereign and also promotes public disorder.
Law of Sedition
The term ‘sedition’ means “conduct of speech which results in mutiny against the authority of the state”. The Law of Sedition is defined under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This law is considered as a reasonable restriction imposed on the right to freedom of speech. The Law of Sedition was drafted by Thomas Macaulay and was introduced in 1870.
The activities that are called seditious are debatable when it comes to India. The Indian Penal Code has defined certain components which if present then the act can be called a seditious act. The components are discussed below:
- Any form of visible representation either through written or spoken words or signs displayed through posters/ placards, etc.
- The act must be of nature which brings hatred against the Indian Government.
- The act must result in some kind of violence or public disorder.
There are certain laws which cover the Law of Sedition, they are:
- Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 124 A)
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Section 95)
- The Seditious Meetings Act, 1911
- The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (Section 2(o) (iii)
According to the IPC, sedition is considered a high-value crime that is against the Sovereignty of our country. In this offense, the police can arrest the accused without any warrant and can start with the investigation without taking the permission of the court.
Certain legal procedures have to be followed regarding the charges of sedition, they are:
Go to the Jurisdictional Police Station
A person has a legal right to go to the police station and file a complaint wherever the offense of sedition has been committed.
Lodging an F.I.R
Whenever any information regarding a cognizance offense is received by the police, they prepare a written document known as the F.I.R. In the cases of sedition, the F.I.R can be filed by the person who has come to know about the seditious act and it can also be file by the police officer.
Cognizance by the police
When a seditious crime is reported in the police station the police officers must take immediate actions against the accused as in such cases they have the right to arrest without warrant.
The police had to follow certain procedures when they have to arrest without the warrant, the procedure is:
- If any seditious act is going in front of the police inspector or the District Magistrate or the Executive Magistrate can arrest the person involved in the act without any warrant.
- If any kind of information is received from another police officer for the arrest of the person who has committed the offense of sedition then the police officer can arrest that person.
- F.I.R when lodged against the accused.
- If any person is suspected of being involved in an act of sedition then the police have the authority to arrest the person for further investigation.
The investigation is initiated once all the information is provided to the police officer who is in charge of that particular case. A magistrate has the authority to assign a police officer to investigate the cognizable offenses such as the offense of sedition. He also has the power to take cognizance upon receiving any complaint or upon any information received from any person except the police office which has prior information about the crime committed.
Once the investigation is completed the police officer submits the charge sheet which includes documents like F.I.R copy, statement of the complaint, statement of the witness, etc.
Defenses Available to a Person Charged with Sedition:
- That the person charged with sedition has done no such act or has said no such words that can be questioned.
- He did not attempt to the contempt or attempt dissatisfaction.
- The dissatisfaction caused should be in no way towards the Government.
Some acts are not considered as seditious. Such acts are briefly described below:
- Improvement or demanding any alteration by lawful means with the disapproval of the measures of the Government.
- The use of words that express disapprobation of acts of the Government and in no way are encouraging those feelings which generate public disorder by any act of violence.
- To improve the living conditions of the people or to secure the alteration of those acts by lawful approach without the feeling of enmity and disloyalty which involves excitement to public disorder or any act of violence.
Analysis of Sedition and Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution:
Freedom of speech is a right that is globally supported by all human beings as the basic fundamental right. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution defines the freedom of speech and this right has no specific geographical indication as it is a basic right of each individual to gather information from all the possible resources and also, exchange their opinions and viewpoints both inside as well as outside the country.
The Court of Law has the authority to look after the rights and protect it from being infringed.
By the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, there were two changes which were introduced with regards to the freedom of speech and expression, they are:
- It comparatively widened the latitude for restrictions on free speech by adding further grounds
- The restrictions that will be imposed on Article 19 (1) (a) must be reasonable.
There were Indian Freedom Fighters who were also charged with Sedition during their struggle of getting independence for our nation.
Three charges were imposed on him, they were:
- Tampering with loyalty
- Shaking the manes
- Attempt to excite disaffection towards the British Government
Gandhiji was charged with sedition because he had written politically sensitive articles in his weekly journal called ‘Young India’ which was published from 1919 to 1932. He was sentenced to six-year imprisonment.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
There were two events on which Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with sedition, those events were:
- He delivered speeches that allegedly incited violence which in turn lead to the killing of two British Officers. He was charged for Sedition in the year 1898 but later was given bail in 1898.
- He was defending the Indian revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj in his newspaper called ‘Kesari’. He was convicted under sedition and was then sent to Mandalay, Burma from 1908 to 1914.
There have been instances where the question was raised whether the Indian Legal System should abolish the laws punishing seditious activities. In the present times, the sedition laws expect that every citizen should in no way show enmity, contempt towards the Government established by the law. But we also cannot ignore the fact that there are some dark areas which exist between the actual law and the way it is implemented and therefore, the law must amend such areas. Many divisive powers are acting together in which such laws are the necessary evils in a country like ours, and it is the need for such law that the activities which promote violence in the society or any kind of public disorder should be stopped immediately.
National Crime Records Bureau Statistics on Sedition
Any crime that is committed against the Government or the State, it creates public disorder. According to the data of NCRB from the year 2014 to 2016, 165 people were arrested on the charge of sedition. In 2014, 47 cases were reported under sedition.
According to the NCRB reports, the 2018 data shows that the cases of sedition have decreased from 2014 to 2015. Of the 6986 cases that were registered in the year 2016, 1827 cases were reported from Tamil Nadu, followed by Uttar Pradesh 1414, Haryana 1286, and Assam 343 cases.
The Law of Sedition like many other laws were given to us by the Colonial Government in terms of Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and we still rely on it to date and maybe in the coming future too. The law of sedition. The Colonial Government introduced the law of sedition. because they wanted to put people behind the bars who raised their voices against them. In the present scenario, there are people in our country who proudly talk ill about their very own country if they disagree with the Government and its policies or the way they work. They misuse their fundamental right of right to freedom and expression. For maintaining peace in society, sedation laws are essential because violence is never the answer and the violent activities or seditious acts done by the people give rise to civil wars and terrorism.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What are seditious acts?
- What are sedition laws?
- Discuss the freedom fighters who were charged under sedition?
- What procedures are followed when a person is accused of sedition?
- What are the defenses available to a person charged with sedition?
- Indian Penal Code by M.P. Tandon
- Bare Act of IPC,1860