Sedition is an offence defined in Section 124 A of the IPC. As per this definition anyone who brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government by words spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise is guilty of the offence of sedition.

The words of the definition clearly denotes disaffection against government and not nation. Government and state are two different aspects. We can say that government is the face of the state. State is a sovereign authority while Government uses the sovereign authority of the state as an element. State is a larger entity as it includes all individuals, associations and institutions that exist within its territorial boundaries. Government is a smaller entity. It comprises of the people only involved in the legislative, executive and the judicial machinery of the state.

During the colonial period sedition was considered a black law and was used extensively against the leaders of the freedom movement. But the constitution bench of Supreme court painted it white and presented it before the free Indians as a necessary law in the interest of the survival of republic.

According to the Supreme Court verdict in the famous Kedarnath case, sedition can’t be used in case of speeches expressing disagreement or opinions against the government unless it excites terror and violent attacks. This statement says that every citizen has the right to express their opinions (even if it is ‘anti-national’) without any fear unless it excites violence.

On the other note Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution permits reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech. If the law imposing reasonable restriction is made in the interest of public order, it is constitutionally valid. This is the ground on which Kedarnath Singh judgement upheld the constitutional validity of sedition.

So impliedly disagreement with the govt is not sedition unless it implicates terror for the state. But freedom of speech can’t be absolute. It isn’t absolute even in the United States, where the First Amendment doesn’t specifically enumerate restrictions as our Constitution does.

Restrictions ought to be imposed on speech when it crosses the boundary of advocacy and becomes incitement. If all the rights are going to be absolute in nature then condition would be
Once you become fearless, life becomes limitless“.

The definition is so exhaustive that it does not leave out of its purview any possible mode of self expression, simply by using the words “or otherwise”.

So what can be changed is the expression of the section 124A so that it upholds the freedom of speech and expression as an important tool for democracy in one hand and be stringent for the one who attacks on the integrity of state. In this way positive criticism would be acknowledged by the government and sterner upon the one who is traitor to his own state.

Indian Parliament

This article has been written by Arushi Chaudhary who is a final year law student from New Delhi, India. You too are welcome to write.

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