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Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code:
- The offence of sedition is introduced under Section 124A of IPC.
- 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 whoever excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, has committed the offence of sedition.
What are the meaning of disaffection, hatred and contempt?
Under Section 124A of IPC:
- Disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
- Hatred implies an ill will, while contempt implies a low opinion. Both of them are a state of mind in relation to the object.
Types of Sedition:
Five heads of sedition can be enumerated depending upon the object of the accused: –
- Exciting disaffection against the King, Government, Constitution, Parliament or administration of justice;
- Promoting any alteration in Church or State by unlawful means;
- Inciting disturbance of the peace;
- Raising discontent among the King’s subjects; and
- Exciting class hatred
Offence under this Section is Cognizable, Non-bailable and Non-compoundable:
- Cognizable: an offence for which a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without a warrant.
- Non-bailable: They are serious offences where bail is a privilege and only the courts can grant it.
- Compoundable offences: Offences where the complainant (i.e. the victim), enter into a compromise and agrees to have the charges dropped against the accused.
- The offence of sedition was originally introduced under section 113 of Macaulay’s Draft Penal Code of 1837.
- It was dropped when the Indian Penal Code was passed in 1860.
- The then law member of the Government of India Sir Fits James Stephen introduced an amendment in the form of section 124-A through the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 1870which was passed.
Who were punished during the freedom struggle under section 124A?
- In 1897, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was booked for sedition.
- Gandhiji, being the editor of the paper ‘Young India’ along with Shankarlal Ghelabhai Sankar printer and publisher were charged under section 124A.
Should section 124 be amended?
Arguments in support of Section 124A:
- Section 124A of the IPC has its utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist elements.
- It protects the elected government from attempts to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means.
- The continued existence of the government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the State.
- If contempt of court invites penal action, contempt of government should also attract punishment.
- Many districts in different states face a Maoist insurgency and rebel groups virtually run a parallel administration. These groups openly advocate the overthrow of the state government by revolution.
- Against this backdrop, the abolition of Section 124A would be ill-advised merely because it has been wrongly invoked in some highly publicized cases.
Arguments against Section 124A:
- Section 124A is a relic of colonial legacy and unsuited in a democracy.
- It is a constraint on the legitimate exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
- Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy.
- They should not be constructed as sedition. Right to question, criticize and change rulers is very fundamental to the idea of democracy.
- The British, who introduced sedition to oppress Indians, have themselves abolished the law in their country. There is no reason, why should not India abolish this section.
- The terms used under Section 124A like ‘disaffection‘ are vague and subject to different interpretation to the whims and fancies of the investigating officers.