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Revisiting the sedition law

The govt. has admitted in Parliament that the present definition of sedition under section 124-A of IPC is too wide. The issue has arisen on account of arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, student President of JNU. It is believed that the charges of sedition against the students of JNU were an act of police overreach. The legal luminaries have pointed out that an essential ingredient of sedition-imminent threat to public order- was absent in the case. Presently, section 124-A is under review of Law Commission.

 

Provisions of Section 124-A of IPC:

Sedition — 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 in India, 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 Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or 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.

 

View of the Supreme Court:

SC has held that sedition is an offense that fall under threat to “public order” as an exception to “freedom of speech and expression”. However, SC ruled that section 124-A ought to be invoked only if a particular speech or action had a “pernicious tendency to create public disorder”. Words such as “excites or attempts to excite dissatisfaction” or “brings into or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt” are unacceptably vague.

 

 



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