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Sedition in IPC – Section 124-A

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Sedition in IPC - Section 124-A

I. INTRODUCTION

As per Coleridge, sedition denotes a tumult, an insurrection, popular commotion or an uproar, it implies violence or lawlessness in some form. It basically means words or actions that make people rebel against the authority of the State. This section was added in 1870 and later amended in 1891.

II. INGREDIENTS OF SEDITION IN IPC

The law of Sedition in IPC is mentioned in S. 124-A. There are two essentials of sedition as laid down in the section, which are as follows :

  1. Bringing or attempting to bring into hatred or contempt or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the Govt. of India.
  2. Such act or attempt may be done (a) by words, either spoken or written, or (b) signs, or (c) by visible representation.

Explanation 1- It provides that “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. It means anything which is contrary to affection and very near to hatred or dislike. “Feelings of enmity” includes ill-will, hostility and anything of similar class which can be summarised under the above expressions.

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Explanation 2 & 3 – It provides that comments which express disapprobation (disapproval) against administrative action or the measures of the govt. with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means and without exciting hatred or contempt will not amount to sedition.

  1. Whoever – Not only the writer of seditious articles but whoever uses in any way the words or printed matter for the purpose of exciting feelings of disaffection to the govt. is liable under this section. However, the printer, publisher, the editor or owner, can escape liability from the publication of seditious material only if he proves that he was not aware of the contents of the paper.
  2. Visible representation –  It is not necessary that the seditious matter should be by words (written or spoken) but it may be evidenced by a woodcut or engraving of any kind or by exhibition of flags. 
  3. ‘Attempt’ & ‘hatred or contempt’ – It is sufficient to bring a case under this section that an attempt to commit sedition had been made irrespective of its success. In order to determine as to whether a speech constitutes an attempt or not, it should be viewed from the perspective of types of persons to whom it was primarily addressed.  Hatred or contempt towards govt. can be created by making dishonourable, corrupt, malicious remarks against them in discharge of its functions or accusing the govt. of hostility or indifference towards the welfare of the people.
  4. Govt. established by law in India –  This expression is a visible symbol of state. Govt. means does not mean persons for the time being but persons who are authorized for the time being to administer govt. A general criticism of certain officers cannot be deemed to be criticism against govt.
  5. Intention – The essence of the crime of sedition lies in the intention with which the language is used. The law will presume the intention from the language and conduct of the accused and then it is for the accused to show that his words were harmless and his  motive was innocent. Once it is established that the intention of the speaker was to excite feelings of disaffection, then it is immaterial as to whether the same words had the effect of exciting such feeling. In the case of Manmohan ghose that in construing newspaper articles its meaning has to be considered as a whole and not in isolation.
  6. Various forms of excitement – Disaffection can be excited in a number of ways, such as, by poem, drama, story, novel or essays. But if the seditious writing remains unpublished it will not amount to sedition because publication of some kind is necessary.
  7. Incitement to secure ‘Swaraj’ – In the case of Besant, Mrs. v. Emperor, a sharp line distinction had been drawn b/w change of govt and a change of form of govt. It was held that advocating ‘home rule’ for India is not per se objectionable as it does not mean govt. of the country to the exclusion of the present govt.
  8. Explanation 2 & 3 –  These explanations give freedom to journalists, orators etc. to disapprove, attack, use forcible and strong language against administrative acts of govt. but it should be free such language which engender feelings of enmity, hatred against govt.

IV. CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF S. 124-A

The constitutional validity of Sedition in IPC under S. 124-A was challenged in Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar, wherein it was held by the Supreme Court that S. 124A is not violative of freedom of speech and expression under Art 19(1)(a). It further observed that the explanation to the section makes it clear that criticism of public measures or comment on govt. action is not affected if it is within the reasonable limits. It is only when the words have pernicious tendency of intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law steps in.

V. SECTION 124-A & 153A

Though both sections supplement each other but the major difference b/w S. 153A & 124A is that the former aims at preventing anything by which feelings of one class might be inflamed against another and thereby is an offence against public tranquillity, whereas, the latter deals with sedition and punishes the offences against state. Thus, S. 124A (Sedition) affects the State directly while S. 153A affects the state indirectly.

VI. TRIAL OF SEDITION

An offence under this section is triable by Magistrate of First Class and the Magistrate has the discretion to decide whether the case shall be tried by himself or by Court Session.  It is a cognizable, non-bailable & non-compoundable offence.  The offence is triable either in the district where the author hands over the document for the purpose of being communicated or in the district where it is published.

VII. SENTENCE

The sentence to be awarded depends upon the nature and circumstances of each case, the language used etc. It was observed in the case of Munshi Singh that the test as regards sentence should be whether the speech or article was a violent one and whether the intention of the accused was to excite people to commit violence.

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