Sedition Law in India: View of a Law Student.


Say something bad to me- It’s okay!
Say something bad to my family- it’s not okay, but it’s okay!
Say something bad about my nation- now you are in trouble!

IntroductionThe term sedition is not a new term for India, it has been in the midst of political discussion since the days of freedom struggle. The Father of the Nation as well as his political advisor Bal Gangadhar Tilak have been arrested and imprisoned under this law.The offence under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has been captioned as sedition which is very closely related to treason i.e offence against the state.

Sedition Laws in India
  • Under Indian Penal code Section 124A-“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 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 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.
  • Under Criminal Procedure Code Section 95 – Power to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue search warrants for the same. Where:-

(a)any newspaper, or book, or

(b)any document, wherever printed, appears to the State Government to contain any matter the publication of which is punishable under section 124A or section 153A or section 153B or section 292 or section 293 or section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860 ), the State Government may, by notification, stating the grounds of its opinion, declare every copy of the issue of the newspaper containing such matter, and every copy of such book or other document to be forfeited to Government, and thereupon any police officer may seize the same wherever found in India and any Magistrate may by warrant authorize any police officer not below the rank of sub- inspector to enter upon and search for the same in any premises where any copy of such issue or any such book or other document may be or may be reasonably suspected to be.


  • Under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act Section 2 (o) (iii)-Which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India.
  • The Seditious Meetings Act 1911
Landmark Sedition Trials
  1. JogendraChundra Bose (Queen Empress vsJogeshChundra Bose)

The initial cases that invoked the sedition law included numerous prosecutions against the editors of nationalist newspapers. The first among them was the trial of Jogendra Chandra Bose in 1891. Bose, the editor of the newspaper, Bangobasi, wrote an article criticizing the Age of Consent Bill for posing a threat to religion and for its coercive relationship with Indians. His article also commented on the negative economic impact of British colonialism. Bose was prosecuted and accused of exceeding the limits of legitimate criticism, and inciting religious feelings. The judge rejected the defence’s plea that there was no mention of rebellion in his article. However,the proceedings against Bose were dropped after he tended an apology.

  1. The Queen Empress vs. BalGangadhrTilak(1897)

Ironically some of the most famous sedition trials of the late 19th and early 20th century involved Indian nationalist leaders. Of these Tilak was charged with sedition on two occasion. The first in 1897 for the speeches that allegedly incited the violent behavior of others, which resulted in death of two British officers. He convicted and released on bail in 1898, and  in 1909 he again prosecuted for the seditious writing in the newspaper PubjabKesari, but he released again.

  1. KedarNath Singh vs. State of Bihar(1962)

This was the landmark case,this was the first case of sedition after the independent India. Where the constitutional bench of 5 judges of Supreme Court clearly stated that seditious speech and expression may be punishable only if the speech is incitement to “violent” or “public dis-order.”

  1. Balwant Singh and ANR vs. State of Punjab

The accused raised the slogan “KhalistaanZindabad” outside the cinema hall just after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Supreme Court said that the slogan raised by the accused had no impact on public. Two individuals casually raising slogans could not be said to be exciting disaffection towards the government.

Section 124A would not apply to the facts and circumstances of this case.

  1. AseemTrivedi vs. State of Maharastra (2012)

Controversial, political cartoonist and activist ,AseemTrivedi, was arrested on the charges of sedition, in 2010 for allegedly insulting the National Emblem in negative manner having replaced the lions with rabid wolves during Anna Hazare protest.

  1. SheryaSinghal vs. Union of India

The famous 66A judgment, the Supreme Court drew a clear distinction between “advocacy” and “incitement”, stating that only the latter could be punished. Therefore, advocating revolution, or advocating even violent overthrow of the State, does not amount to sedition, unless there is incitement to violence, and more importantly, the incitement is to ‘imminent’ violence.


Law of Sedition vs Freedom of Speech-

Every case of sedition has a common defence that the action was done in pursuance of Article 19(1)(a). i.e. It was his freedom of speech under which he said those statements. But what people are not aware of is Article 19(2) which states that a speech or an act should not be something which can invoke or incite others against the state. If something is capable of causing unrest in the nation, it can’t be defended by using Article 19(1)(a). Such an act which incites others to destroy the unity and integrity of the nation will be termed as sedition and not free speech.



A colonial legacy like sedition law, which presumes popular affection for the states as a natural condition and except citizens not show any enmity, contempt and hatred or hostility toward the government established the law, does not have a place in modern democratic like India.Before independence sedition was a negative law for us as the people who were fighting for us were put behind the bars but after independence it has proved to be a positive law as the people going against and invoking others to go against the nation can be punished, which is required for the unity and integrity of the nation.


ATIDIVYA ANAND