Sedition Law in India by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ

The literal meaning of sedition is inciting discontent or rebellion against the government. The sedition law is enshrined in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which was made during the British rule in India by the British government and was made to tackle dissent against colonial rule.

Section124A of the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as, “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 a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”

Over the years, various people have been booked under for sedition, including author Arundhati Roy for her controversial remarks on Kashmir and more recently, climate activist Disha Ravi, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Siddique Kappan among others.

History of Sedition Law in India

The first notable case of sedition was reported in 1891, in the case of Queen Empress vs Jogendra Chandra Bose and Ors. (1892) ILR 19 Cal 35, in which the editors of a Bengali magazine were charged for criticising the policies of the British Government. The publishers challenged the sedition law in the court and contended that penalizing people for exercising their rights went against the original intention of the law.

The Calcutta High Court held that the publishers could not be absolved of legal liability simply because they had not written the seditious content, as the circulation of the magazine by them was intended to be read by the target audience. The High Court had also emphasized upon the distinction between the terms ‘disapprobation’ (that is, legitimate criticism) and ‘disaffection’ (which refers to ‘any feeling contrary to affection’. The court concluded that since only disaffection is penalized, the offense of sedition does not take people’s rights away.

Recent discussions on the need of sedition law in India

Recently, two journalists charged under the sedition law approached the apex court to challenge the law and its constitutional validity. The current Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana expressed his disagreement over government not scrapping the sedition law in spite of scrapping many other pre-colonial laws. While stating his viewpoint, he also mentioned how the law of sedition was used by the British to suppress the voice of freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The Chief justice said “a statute criminalising expression based on unconstitutionally vague definitions of ‘disaffection towards Government’ etc. is an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) and causes constitutionally impermissible ‘Chilling Effect’ on speech”.


Sedition law in India dates back to the British rule in India. Stated under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, the meaning of sedition is to rebel against the government. As a personal opinion, I believe there is no need to scrap the complete law, instead, certain guidelines must be prepared by the Supreme Court to prevent misuse of the law by the government and also to bar people who spread disharmony among the citizens through words or actions that are not based on true or verified facts.

Written by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ

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