Return to frontpage
ExploreUnderstandIllumine
Tilak-1.jpg

The Law of Sedition and India: An Evolutionary Overview

Article 124A, characterised aptly by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, as the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”, has a long legal history, originating from English Law.

In this article, Saptarshi Bhattacharya, Senior Coordinator, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, traces the journey of the law from 13th century England through the colonial rule in India and the developments in independent India to its present status where the operation of the law has been put on hold by the Supreme Court of India on May 11, 2022.

Bhattacharya throws light on the key doctrines that directed the sedition law, the manner in which it was applied to suit the times over the centuries, the judicial pronouncements that shaped its application, and the manner in which it has been easily used as a political tool to thwart dissent in free India.

imagejpg.jpg

Dissent & Democracy: Why the Sentinel Should Strike Down IPC Sec. 124A

Sedition laws sit at the crossroads of politics and society, and law and justice. The political nature of this “offence against the state” tests the limits of free speech a citizen can rightfully enjoy. India’s polity has changed since 1870, when Sedition was added as an offence under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to govern restive subjects of the British Crown. This stifling legislation, conceived as a colonial tool to incarcerate freedom fighters, continues to be quickly invoked by free India’s elected rulers against dissenting citizens, deeply damaging the country’s democratic fabric.

This law which chips away at the essence of republican democracy – the right to dissent – has a chequered journey in independent India starting from 1950, when courts upheld free speech. However, the First Amendment to the Constitution put a damper on such liberal judicial interventions. Since then, although judgments urged governments to exercise restraint, the latter chose to unreservedly invoke Sec. 124A to quell dissenters—including protest movements and individuals—expressing views that run afoul of ruling establishments. On May 11, 2022, the Supreme Court accepted the Union Government’s plea that it would re-examine Sec. 124A, but suspended pending criminal trials and court proceedings, and said that it “hopes and expects” Union and State governments to refrain from using this legal provision while it is under reconsideration.

In this essay, Eklavya Vasudev, a Lawyer and Doctoral candidate in Law at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, argues the case for a well-reasoned judgment by the Supreme Court striking down Sec. 124A of the IPC in its entirety by asserting its role as the sentinel of the Constitution. Doing so, he points out, will forestall any moves by governments to abuse the law in some form or the other, be consistent with positions taken by previous Supreme Court judgments and give life to the vision of the founders of the Constitution who unanimously voted against using “sedition” to restrict free speech. On the other hand, leaving Sec. 124A as it is, narrowing its scope, or letting the government replace it with either an updated or a different legislation, will mean a judicial nod for the “sedition juggernaut to roll on in one form or the other to thwart dissent in a secular and democratic republic”.

Resource Collage image-2.jpg

The Sedition Law in India - Select Resources

Article 124A of the Indian Penal Code has been through engaging court speeches, Bills and Acts, Reports of commissions and committees, and insightful judgments. The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy presents a select list of resources, from Mahatma Gandhi’s Trial Speech in 1922 to recent Writ Petitions and the Supreme Court’s Order on May 11, 2022.

Panel Discussion on March 24-2016.jpg
Resources on Sedition from The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy

Links to a Panel Discussion on Free Speech and Sedition in a Democracy organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy on March 24, 2016,

free booster.jpg
COVID-19 Compendium: Official Information on COVID-19 Released by India and the WHO [HTML and PDF]

An up-to-date compilation of more than 1,700 official statements by the Government of India from January 17, 2020. Links to articles published by The

16082019
Walking in Indian Cities – A Daily Agony for Millions

In India's hierarchy of roadways, its millions of pedestrians are reduced to helpless trundlers. Despite the reality that they constitute the single l

Karnataka-High-Courtjpg
Full Text: Karnataka High Court Judgment on Hijab Restrictions in Educational Institutions

On March 15, 2022, a three-Judge Bench of the High Court of Karnataka, headed by the Chief Justice, Ritu Raj Awasthi, pronounced its verdict on the pe

Picture1jpg
On Rights and Duties – Two Essays

Views of leaders occupy prominent positions in the popular narrative in any society: they set a tone for political and social discourse and play a rol

Policy Report No. 27

Farmer Producer Companies: Preliminary Studies on Efficiency and Equity from Maharashtra

In recent years, the concept of Farmer Producer Company (FPC) has gained the attention of researchers. Though relatively new in India and still in an emerging phase in Maharashtra, these FPCs are being viewed as a possible replacement for the old cooperative model and taken the form of new movement. The formation of FPCs in the districts of Maharashtra began in 2015 under the Maharashtra Agricultural Competitiveness Project (MACP). In Osmanabad and Solapur districts of Maharashtra, FPCs have been in operation for the past three years. As FPCs gained the attention and participation of the farmers it becomes pertinent to study their formation and performance.  This Policy Report attempts to look at the FPCs in Solapur and Osmanabad districts of Maharashtra to ascertain the level of inclusiveness and participation of the various categories of farmers in the running of the company. The study points out that caste and family hierarchies continue to hold a grip on ownership patterns, albeit in the early days of the FPCs. However, it can be said that the FPCs have the potential to overcome the difficulties faced by the farmers in selling their produce directly in the conventional market arising out of rigid vertical coordination of the middlemen based on the experiences of the farmers with the producer company model.The Report also includes an analysis of the new policy on the FPCs and attempts to assess the differences between the old cooperative Act and new Farmer Producer Companies Act. [PDF 829 KB]

Background Note No.7

Public Policy and the Child in Tamil Nadu

The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy and UNICEF, Chennai, organised a Round Table on Public Policy and the Child in Tamil Nadu on September 02, 2017 (Saturday), at Kasturi Buildings, 859 & 860, Anna Salai, Chennai.    The aim of the Round Table was to take stock of the extent to which the State's policies have contributed to and shaped childhood. Covering the ages of 0 to 18 years, the discussions at the Round Table explored the relationship between the state and the child in Tamil Nadu, which is critical for the quality of life for children. Papers were invited from the participants at the Round Table on the following themes: 1. Policy and Fiscal Space in Tamil Nadu 2. Education and Health 3. The Disadvantaged Child, and 4. Social Spaces for the Child This Background Note contains the Concept Note and the 10 papers that were presented and discussed at the Round Table. Feedback and comments may please be sent to [email protected] Click here to download the Background Note [PDF 3.72 MB]

BACK TO TOP