• Legis Scriptor

Law of sedition

Authored By- Anjali Rawat

Keywords- Sedition, Constitution, Criminal, IPC


After the Constitution of India came into operation a crucial question concerning to the Constitutionality of Section 124-A of the IPC came into existence. Article 19 of the Constitution was raised during a few cases resulting in a conflict of the decision in the high courts. There are two divergent views in this regard. The protagonists of one view hold that Section 124-A of the IPC is ultra virus of the Constitution in thus far because it seeks to punish merely bad feelings against the Government. Its unreasonable restriction on freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article19 (1) (a) and isn’t saved under Article 19(2) of the Constitution by the expression ‘in the interest of public order’. Sedition embraces all those practices whether by words, deed or writing, which are calculated to subvert the Government. There is no general rule laid down that criticism of the subordinate officials of the government and not of the government itself is seditious.


Every citizen has been given freedom to talk, express their views, under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution. However, this freedom isn’t absolute and a few reasonable restrictions are imposed on freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2). But when an individual does an act by his words, signs or representation which is held to be contemptuous towards the Government of India, then such act is punishable under section 124-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Sedition is an offence that criminalizes the speech that is regarded to be disloyal to or to be threatening to the state. The supply of Section 124A is extremely wide and it covers the act of defamation of the Government excluding any criticism in straightness of any particular measures or acts of administration.

Law of Sedition

The word ‘Sedition’ means “conduct or speech which ends up in mutiny against the authority of the state”. Law of Sedition deals with section 124A of IPC, 1860, is taken into account as an inexpensive restriction on freedom of speech. It had been drafted by Thomas Macaulay and introduced in 1870.

The following points which describe the origin of sedition law:

1. Origin of the Sedition law in India was connected to the Wahabis Movement of the 19th century.

2. This was an Islamic revivalist movement and was led by the Syed Ahmed Barelvi.

3. Since 1830, the movement was active but within the wake of 1857 revolt, it became turned resistance, a Jihad against the British.

4. The British termed Wahabis as rebels and administered military operations against Wahabis.


In the British Era, Section 124A wasn’t a neighborhood of Indian Penal Code, 1860. But under this section it was inserted into IPC by the IPC (Amendment) Act, 1870. By an amending act of 1898, this provision was later replaced by the Section 124A. Consistent with British Era Law, under the old IPC, “Exciting or attempting to excite feelings or disaffection was considered as Sedition”.

Meaning of the Sedition under Section 124A of IPC, 1860

“Whoever, by words, either by spoken or written, or by the 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 shall be punishable with the Life Imprisonment”.

Explanation I of the Section defines the scope of disaffection and in the Explanation II and III indicate what under the English Law isn’t considered seditious intention.

The activities which are Seditious in nature

In India, what constitutes as ‘Sedition’ is much debated. As per the Indian penal Code, for an act to be called “seditious”, it should have the subsequent components:

1. Anything which is in words, which may be either written or spoken, or signs which include placards/posters etc (visible representation)

2. That Must bring hatred/contempt/disaffection against the Indian Government

3. Must end in ‘imminent violence’ or public disorder.

As per the interpretation of the Court on Section 124-A of the Indian penal Code, 1860 the subsequent acts are considered as “seditious”

1. Rising of slogans against the Government – example – “Khalistan Zindabad” by groups. Rising of slogans by individuals casually once or twice was held to not be seditious.

2. A speech made by an individual must incite violence / public disorder for it to be considered as seditious. Subsequent cases have gone to further interpret it to incorporate “incitement of imminent violence”.

3. Any written work which create violence and the public disorder.

Sedition found in other Laws

The following laws which cover the Sedition law:

1. It is cover under IPC, 1860 (Section 124A)

2. Under the CrPC, 1973 (Section 9)

3. It is covered under the Seditious Meetings Act, 1911 &

4. The last one is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (Section 2(o) (iii)).

The Constitutionality of Law of Sedition in India

In the case of Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar[1], following was held by the Supreme Court that the law is constitutional and covered written or spoken words that had the implicit idea of subverting the Government by violent means. With an intention to make public disorder, Citizens can criticize the Government as long as they’re not inciting people to violence against the Government. In this Supreme Court upheld the validity of Section 124A; it limits its application to acts involving the intention or tendency to make disorder, or a disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.

In, Balwant Singh and Anr v. State of Punjab[2], after taking the consent of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the accused had raised the slogan “Khalistan Zindabad” outside a cinema hall. It was held that two individuals casually raising slogans that couldn’t be said to be exciting disaffection towards the Government. Section 124A wouldn’t apply to the circumstances of this case.


Sedition is a serious offence within the violation of Article 19. So there’s a requirement that sedition laws should have expressly contained words that satisfied the restrictions of Article 19(2). The aim of restricting speech under Sedition Act is the protection of National Security. Sedition laws should be interpreted and applied consistent with rules given by the Supreme Court.

[1] AIR 1962, SC 955 [2] AIR 1985 SC 1785 References

1. Section 124 A of IPC , 1860

2. Indra Das v. State of Assam, (2011) 3 SCC 380

3. Balwant Singh And Anr v. State Of Punjab 1995 (1) SCR 411

4. Kedar Nath Singh v. State Of Bihar 1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769

5. Ram Nandan v. State AIR 1959 All 101, 1959 CriLJ 1