Under Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution, every person has the freedom to discuss and express their ideas. However, this right is not unfettered, and under Article 19(2), some justifiable limits on freedom of speech and expression have been imposed. When a person does an act that is considered insulting of the Indian government by his words, signs, or representations, such act is criminal under section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Sedition is a crime that punishes speech that is considered disloyal or dangerous to the state.


“Conduct or speech that ends in mutiny against the authority of the state” is what the term “sedition” refers to. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is considered a legitimate restriction on freedom of speech under the law of sedition. In 1870, Thomas Macaulay drafted it and it was first introduced.

The origins of sedition law can be summarized as follows:

  • The Wahabis Movement of the nineteenth century is linked to the origins of India’s sedition law.
  • Syed Ahmed Barelvi was the leader of this Islamic revivalist movement.
  • The movement had been active since 1830, but in the aftermath of the 1857 revolution, it evolved into armed resistance, a Jihad against the British.
  • The British termed Wahabis as rebels and carried out military operations against Wahabis.



The Indian Penal Code, 1860, did not include Section 124A during the British era. However, the IPC (Amendment) Act of 1870 added this section to the IPC. According to the British Era Law, under the old IPC, “exciting or attempting to stir sentiments or disaffection was classified as sedition.” This provision was then amended by Section 124A by an amendment act of 1898.



What constitutes ‘sedition’ in India is a contentious issue. According to the Indian Penal Code, an act must contain the following elements to be considered “seditious”:

Any words, whether written or spoken, as well as signs such as placards and posters (visible representation)

Must incite hostility, disdain, and dissatisfaction with the Indian government. Must lead to “imminent violence” or “public disobedience”.

Groups are raising slogans against the government, such as “Khalistan Zindabad.” Individuals who raised slogans once or twice were not considered seditious.

To be judged seditious, a speaker’s remarks must provoke violence or public disorder. Following cases have gone on to expand the definition to include “incitement to impending violence.”



Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar

The statute was found to be constitutional, as it encompassed written or spoken comments that had the implied intention of undermining the government through violence.


Citizens may criticise the government without intending to cause public unrest, as long as they are not inciting people to violence against the government.

Balwant Singh and Anr v. State of Punjab

The accused had raised the slogan “Khalistan Zindabad” outside a cinema theatre after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

It was decided that two people shouting slogans on the street could not be regarded to be inciting discontent with the government. The provisions of Section 124A would not apply in this scenario.


Sedition is the most serious offence in a breach of Article 19. As a result, sedition law should have clearly contained wording that met the restrictions of Article 19. (2). The Sedition Act’s speech limitations are intended to protect national security. When interpreting and applying sedition legislation, the Supreme Court’s guidelines should be observed.



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