For All S.S.B. Aspirants Sedition Law Explained in Detail ?
In the Wake of the Recent Protest AT JNU and coming up of the Charges Of sedition. One needs to know what exactly is sedition and what does it mean ?
Sedition law is there in our country but its interpretation has been quite specific and it is not as wide-ranging as was in the case of the British era
One knows that no fundamental right in our Constitution is absolute, Freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed as per the Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted on the grounds specified in Article 19(2). It is significant that during the debates in the Constituent Assembly our founding fathers, in view of their bitter experience of the application of the sedition law imposed by the British colonial authority, omitted `sedition’ as one of the permissible grounds of restriction under Article 19(2) on freedom of speech and expression.
However sedition still remains as a criminal offence under the IPC and it provides for inter alia sentence of life imprisonment and can leas to a fine upon conviction. Section 124A was first challenged in the Supreme Court as violative of the fundamental rights of free speech which is guaranteed by the Article 19 (1)(a) of the constitution.
The Fedral Court (during British) India presided over by the distinguished Chief Justice, Maurice lawyer, ruled that sedition law is not to be invoked “to Minister to the wounded vanity of government… The acts or words complained of must either disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that is their intention or tendency.” The Privy Council did not approved of the Federal Court judgment and placed a wide and literal interpretation of the section.
According to the Privy Council any speech or writing which evinced disloyalty or ill feelings towards the government could be regarded as sedition and persons guilty of such acts could be prosecuted and punished for committing the offence of sedition. Our Supreme Court in its landmark decision in 1962, in Kedarnath versus state of Bihar, dissented from the view of the Privy Council and preferred the view of the Fedral Court
According to the Supreme Court, mere criticism of the government or comments on the administration, however vigorous or pungent or even ill-informed, does not constitute sedition. The Supreme Court limited the application of section 124A (sedition) to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or incitement to violence.
Incitement to violence is the essential ingredient of the offence of sedition. That is our law, that is how Section 124A was interpreted and upheld as constitutional by a constitution Bench. Therefore the question whether certain speech or acts constitute sedition are essentially questions of fact which have to be determined by a court of law keeping in mind the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in Kedarnath’s case.
Thus shouting slogans like Pakistan zindabad, however, deplorable, per se would not attract Section 124A. Criticism of judgment of the Supreme Court upholding the conviction of Afzal Guru on the ground that he did not have a fair trial, is untenable because ion the fact Afzal Guru had a fair trial at all stages of the proceedings.
Nonetheless criticism of the Supreme Court judgment, is again per se not sedition unless there is speech or acts which call for avenging the `injustice’ done to Afzal Guru by commission of acts against the government or advocate its overthrow by violent means. Say a person has said Hindustan Murdabad, that the state is tyrannical and it is better to do away with it, necessary to overthrow it, that would constitute sedition.But these facts have to be established in a court of law by following proper procedure. It is not for lawyers or political workers to prejudge the issue. An accused cannot be denied his or her fundamental right to fair trial by assaulting him or her or their supporters or their lawyers, as that would militate against the rule of law and also disrupt administration of justice, by regular courts of the land.
These basic principles must be kept in mind in all cases. Mob rule and mob justice cannot be permitted however strongly one may dislike the accused and his alleged statements. If that happens the very basis of a civil society is undermined and there is no vibrant democracy prevalent in our country.
Again under the view of Section 124A 1sedition’ as interpreted by the Supreme Court is necessary. Its misuse is no ground for its deletion.