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The Sedition Law in India - Select Resources

Sedition in India - From 1922 to 2022: (Top row, L-R) The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was one of several freedom fighters convicted under Sec. 124A IPC in 1922; Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Maurice Gwyer, who made the distinction between the Government established by law and the individuals in government in 1942; K.M. Munshi, who was instrumental in the Constituent Assembly dropping the word “sedition” as a ground for restricting free speech in 1949. (Second row, L-R) Justice Patanjali Sastri, Justice of the Supreme Court, who delivered the majority judgment in independent India’s first two cases on sedition in favour of free speech in 1950; Union Home Minister Sardar Patel and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who were instrumental in enacting the First Amendment in 1951; and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, N.V. Ramana, who led the Bench which stayed the operation of Art. 124A on May 11, 2022. Photos: The Hindu Archives.

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.

I. Mahatma Gandhi’s Speech in 1922

Mahatma Gandhi’s Writings, Philosophy, Audio, Video & Photographs. 1951. Great Trial of 1922 (18.3.1922), Famous Speeches. This speech is taken from The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. VI, The Voice of Truth Part-I Some Famous Speeches, p. 14-24. mkgandhi.org [https://www.mkgandhi.org/speeches/gto1922.htm].

II. Sedition Law

1. Amendment introducing Section 124A o the Indian Penal Code. Government of India. 1870.An act to amend the Indian Penal Code. ACT NO. XXVII OF 1870. Legislative Department. November 9. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/65684666-1870_Amendment-introducing-Sedition.pdf].

2. The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 1898, replacing the old 124A of with a new Section 124A.

Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 1898. Section 4 - Substitution of new section for section 124A, Act XLV, 1860.Source: Manupatra [https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/65712131-Section-4-Substitution-of-new-section-for-section-124A-Act-XLV-1860.pdf].

3. Government of India. 1951. The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. Legislative Department, Ministry of Law and Justice. June 18. [https://legislative.gov.in/constitution-first-amendment-act-1951].

III. Official Documents on Sedition Law in India

4. Rowlat, S.A.T. 1918. Sedition Committee Report. Government of India, Sedition Committee. [ https://archive.org/details/seditionreport00indirich].

5.Parliament Secretariat. 1951. Report of the Select Committee. House of the People. May 25. [https://eparlib.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/58338/1/jcb_1951_constitution_1st_amendment_bill.pdf]

6. Law Commission of India. 2018.Consultation Paper on “SEDITION”. Government of India. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/incoming/65642923-2018_Law-Commission_Consultation-paper-on-Sedition.pdf].

IV. UK Law Commission on Sedition

7. The Law Commission. 1977. Codification-of-the-Criminal-Law-Treason-Sedition-and-Allied-Offences. Working Paper 72. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London. May 10. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/65716558-Working-Paper-No.072-Codification-of-the-Criminal-Law-Treason-Sedition-and-Allied-Offences.pdf].

V. Select Judgments

Pre-Independence

8.First recorded state trial for the act of Sedition. Queen Empress vs Jogendra Chunder Bose and Other. [https://www.ejusticeindia.com/case-summary-queen-empress-v-jogendra-chunder-bose-and-other].

9. The Tilak Cases

10. The V.O.C Cases

11. Madras High Court. 1908. Subramania Siva vs Unknown. November 4. [https://indiankanoon.org/doc/657853].

12. Federal Court Reports. 1942. Niharendu Dutt Majumdar vs The King Emperor. The Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Maurice Gwyer, observes sedition “is not made an offence in order to minister to the wounded vanity of Governments...”. [https://tinyurl.com/2v2f3ywu].

After 1947

13. Supreme Court of India. 2021. The May 11, 2022 Order by the Supreme Court of India,(Source: LiveLaw.in) [https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/sedition-case-sec-124a-ipc-sg-vombatkere-v-uoi-417182.pdf].

14. Supreme Court of India.1962. Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar. January 20. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/incoming/65643045-Kedar-Nath-Singh-v-State-of-Bihar.pdf].

15.Allahabad High Court. 1958. Ram Nandan vs State, May 16. [https://indiankanoon.org/doc/537326].

16. Patna High Court.1953. Debi Soren And Ors. vs The State. September 24. [https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1378955].

17. Supreme Court of India. 1950. Brij Bhushan And Another vs The State of Delhi. May 27. [https://indiankanoon.org/doc/43023].

18.Supreme Court of India. 1950. Romesh Thappar vs The State of Madras. May 26. [https://indiankanoon.org/doc/456839 ].

VI. Select Documents on the current Writ Petitions

19. S.G. Vombatkere. 2021. Writ Petition in the Supreme Court to declare 124A Ultra Vires of the Constitution [https://www.scobserver.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Sedition_WritPetition_SGVombatkere.pdf].

20. Editors Guild of India. 2021. Writ Petition in the Supreme Court of India to declare Sec. 124A as unconstitutional. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/65684678-Sedition_WritPetition_EditorsGuildofIndia.pdf].

21. Ministry of Home Affairs, 2022. Affidavit on behalf of the Union of India on the Government’s decision to re-examine and re-consider the provisions of Sec. 124A of the IPC. Government of India. May 9. [https://www.scobserver.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/wp-c-682-2021.pdf].

22. Solicitor General of India. 2022. Written Submissions On The Question Of Reference To Five Judges Bench Behalf Of Tushar Mehta, S.G. Vombatkere vs Union of India. Writ Petition (C) No.682 of 2021. May 7. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/65715415-3.-Written-Submissions-by-the-Solicitor-General-of-India-May-7-2022.pdf].

VII. Related External Links

23. Constitutional Conduct Group. 2022. CCG Open Statement on the Sedition provision in the Indian Penal Code. June 12. [https://constitutionalconduct.com/2022/06/12/ccg-open-statement-on-the-sedition-provision-in-the-indian-penal-code].

24. Malavika Parthasarathy. 2022.Sedition Law in India: A Timeline. Supreme Court Observer. April 27. [https://www.scobserver.in/journal/sedition-in-india-a-timeline].

VIII. Lok Sabha Answer

25. Ministry of Home Affairs. 2021. Details of Sedition Cases. Lok Sabha. March 16. [https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/65684671-2021_Sedition-data_Parliamentary-answer.pdf].

IX. The Indian Penal Code - Full Text

26. Government of India. 1860. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 Act No. 45 of 1860[October 6, 1860]. [https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1860-45.pdf].

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