Sedition, offences against the state: India

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
You can help by converting these articles into an encyclopaedia-style entry,
deleting portions of the kind normally not used in encyclopaedia entries.
Please also fill in missing details; put categories, headings and sub-headings;
and combine this with other articles on exactly the same subject.

Readers will be able to edit existing articles and post new articles directly
on their online archival encyclopædia only after its formal launch.

See examples and a tutorial.

India’s sedition law/ Sec 124A of the IPC: 1870-2022
From: May 12, 2022: The Times of India

See graphic:

India’s sedition law/ Sec 124A of the IPC: 1870-2022


What is India’s sedition law?

Indian Sedition Law: What is it and what does it say, February 16, 2016: India Today

What is Sedition law and what does it say in the Indian Penal Code:

Section 124-A in the Indian Penal Code, named 'Sedition', explains sedition in wide and magnanimous terms

It says '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 life imprisonment

The explanations which the Indian Penal Code gives are that 'the expression 'disaffection' includes disloyalty and all feelings of hate

It also says that comments that express strong disapproval of 'the measures of the Government, with a view to obtain their desired modifications by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offense under this section.'

According to the section 124-A, comments expressing strong disapproval of the 'administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offense under this section.'

The law was originally drafted by Thomas Macaulay

It was not a part of IPC in the 1860s and was even dropped from the law. It was introduced in the IPC in the year 1870

Many Indian freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, were charged with sedition during freedom struggle

When the first amendment was introduced, which also included detailed limitations on free speech, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was categorical in his belief that the offence of sedition was fundamentally unconstitutional. He had said 'now so far as I am concerned [Section 124-A] is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons. The sooner we get rid of it the better.'

Sedition and the law (S.124-A IPC)

Maharasthra circular of 2015

The Times of India, Sep 05 2015

Maharashtra issues fresh norms on sedition, draws oppn's ire

People trying to bring change in government through legal means will not face sedition charge in Maharashtra, but those attempting to bring into “hatred or contempt, dissatisfaction and provoking violence“ against the central or state government will be slapped with sedition charges. These provisions are part of a fresh set of guidelines issued to police by the Maharashtra government with regard to invocation of the IPC Section (124-A) pertaining to sedition.

The circular containing these guidelines says sedition clause can be invoked against “whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation, is critical of politicians, elected representatives belonging to the government“.

They were issued in compliance with an assurance given to the Bombay high court by state government while dropping sedition charge against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, arrested in 2012 for drawing cartoons that allegedly insulted the national emblem and Parliament. The guidelines were issued on August 27 in accordance with assurance in the HC that the government would come out with a circular indicating limitations and parameters of 124-A of IPC, additional chief secretary (home) K P Bakshi said.

“Powers to invoke different sections of IPC are with the station officer. Government can issue guidelines, hence, we have done so to avoid confusion among different police stations,“ he said.

The circular drew flak from the opposition parties.Leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde of NCP said the move indicated an “Emergency like” situation.

Stopping abuse of 124A

Sunil Baghel, July 18, 2021: The Times of India

Why should a law which was used by the British to punish freedom fighters be in existence in India 70 years after our independence, is a question raised on many occasions by those opposed to section 124A of the IPC, more commonly known as the sedition law. But when the country’s highest court raised the same question recently, and also invoked Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s persecution by the British rulers, it suddenly became possible for civil liberties activists and human rights lawyers to start believing that the country could finally see the back of this law.

Almost six decades after the Constitutional validity of section 124A was upheld by a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India, the same court on July 15, pushed the Union government to revisit the law; and the government, for a change, agreed that its application could be subjected to stringent guidelines. This is exactly what activists and lawyers had been demanding for decades, pointing out that the sedition law had become a tool to suppress dissent and that successive governments – both at the Centre and in states – were guilty of its misuse. Here’s everything you need to know to understand if all the euphoria is justified and where it all could still go wrong:

Activists and lawyers have pointed out that the sedition law became a tool to suppress dissent 
 Let’s go back to 1962, when a five-bench Constitutional Bench upheld the validity of Section 124A

The bench headed by Chief Justice Bhuvneshvar Sinha and Justices S K Das, A K Sarkar, N R Ayyangar and J R Mudholkar dismissed a challenge filed by Forward Communist Party (the party was formed in 1948 following a split in Forward Block) member Kedar Nath Singh. While dismissing his plea, the bench confirmed the Constitutional validity of Section 124A.

So why what happened in 1962 – nearly 60 years ago – is relevant now?

A five-judge bench’s verdict can be overturned only by a bench which is, at least, equally large. The SC bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, which has now asked the government to review the application of sedition law, has only two other judges on it. However, this bench should face no problem in framing fresh guidelines for invoking sedition because that will not interfere with the 1962 judgment. But a caveat here – guidelines in India are routinely circumvented, if not shamelessly violated.

But we are running ahead of ourselves. Let’s first see what the SC said in 1962?

It said that provisions of the sections read as a whole, along with the explanations, made it reasonably clear that they were aimed at “only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence”. The bench added that the explanations appended to the main body of the sections made it clear that “criticism of public measures or comment on government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression”. It also said: “It is only when the words, written or spoken, etc. which have the pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law [will] step in to prevent such activities in the interest of public order”.

Guidelines have been in place since 1962 and they have been routinely circumvented, if not shamelessly violated 
 Disloyalty to the government versus criticism

The bench made a distinction between “disloyalty” to the government versus criticism of a government’s acts by lawful means. It said: “In other words, disloyalty to government is not the same thing as commenting in strong terms upon the measures or acts of government, or its agencies". The SC also said: “A citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about a government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against a government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder”.

So, you see, guideline on application of Section 124A have been in place since 1962. And that is not all, the Bombay high court too framed similar guidelines as recently as 2015 when cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was charged with sedition

The Maharashtra government had then agreed to a five-point protocol aimed at adding a filter to filing of sedition cases. The guidelines said: 1. Words signs or representations [deemed seditious] must bring a government (central or state) into hatred or contempt or must cause or attempt to cause disaffection, enmity or disloyalty and must also be an incitement to violence or must be intended or tend to create public disorder or a reasonable apprehension of public disorder.

2. Words, signs or representations against politicians or public servants by themselves would not fall in this category unless the words/signs/representations show them as representatives of a government. 3. Comments expressing disapproval or criticism of the government with a view to obtaining a change of government by lawful means without any of the above are not seditious under Section 124A.

4. Obscenity or vulgarity by themselves should not be taken into account as a factor or consideration for deciding whether a case falls within the purview of Section 124A of IPC. 5. A legal opinion in writing which gives reasons addressing the points mentioned above must be obtained from a law officer of the district followed within two weeks by a legal opinion in writing from the public prosecutor of the state.

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi after he was released on bail from Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, on Sep 12, 2012

But have these guidelines prevented cynical misuse of the law?

The answer is an emphatic no. People have been charged under 124A for criticising a government/chief minister/minister in tweets and journalists have been booked for exposing a shortcoming/corruption in government schemes. Here are some examples:

  • Senior journalist Vinod Dua, whose case was quashed by the Supreme Court just last month, was booked under 124A in Himachal Pradesh in connection with a video uploaded on a popular video streaming site last year criticising the Union government’s handling of the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • In November 2015, a police station in northern Bihar registered an FIR against actor Aamir Khan and his then wife Kiran Rao, for sedition and promoting enmity between religious groups. This was after the superstar came out on social media to say that he was alarmed and depressed over rising intolerance and growing disquiet in the country and that Rao suggested that they should probably leave the country. A private complaint for the same incident was also filed in a court in Kanpur.
  • A case of sedition was registered against 49 eminent individuals in 2019, including historian Ramchandra Guha, singer Shubha Mudgal and film personalities Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Aparna Sen and Konkana Sen Sharma, after they wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising mob lynchings. The case was later dropped.

A clear indication how serious misuse of sedition law is the poor conviction rate

As per the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of the 322 cases registered between 2014 and 2019, only 4 resulted in a conviction. That’s a conviction rate of just 1%. As per the last available data from 2019, the number of cases pending trial before courts across the country was 86.

Is there no way, then, to stop abuse of 124A?

There are many ways. Of course, repeal is one of them. But as mentioned earlier, a repeal may be difficult. Strengthening existing guidelines is the other way. For instance, it could be made mandatory to have the clearance of an officer of the rank of district collector before filing a sedition case. Currently, it is left to the discretion of a police station in-charge.

It is still possible to put tough limitations on the applicability of 124A of IPC

What’s the Supreme Court’s stand now?

The bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy has also pointed to the abysmal conviction rate under the sedition law to highlight its misuse, and asked why this law wasn’t thrown out of the statute books along with other laws scrapped under the National Democratic Alliance government since 2014.

The bench clarified that it wasn’t blaming any government in particular, but, when one party did not like what the other was saying, section 124A was used. “The situation on the ground is grave. There is a serious threat to the functioning of individuals and parties,” the bench observed.


GAUTAM BHATIA, July 18, 2021: The Times of India

The language of the Section (124A of IPC) is extremely broad, punishing “disaffection” or “hatred” of the government. In 1962, while upholding the constitutional validity of the section, the Supreme Court held that it could only be invoked where an individual was inciting public disorder. The court’s interpretation, however, was at war with the width of the section, and it is little surprise that when it comes to the filing of FIRs by the police and the consideration of bail by the first instance courts, this strained reading of the section is honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

That said, there are significant hurdles to be overcome before this case reaches a positive conclusion. The biggest barrier is the Supreme Court itself, whose 1962 judgment stands in the way. That judgment (Kedar Nath Singh vs Union of India) was delivered by a bench of five judges. To reconsider — and potentially overrule — it, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court must be constituted. That — in turn — can only happen if a smaller bench is persuaded that the case merits a “referral”. Even a seven-judge bench, however, will need to significantly buck a historical trend if, indeed, sedition is to be struck down. This historical trend is that when it comes to cases involving the State’s claims to “national security”, the Supreme Court has almost always sided with the government. In 1962, it upheld the law of sedition. In 1976, in the infamous Habeas Corpus case, it authorised the suspension of fundamental rights. In 1980 — when the horrors of the Emergency were still fresh in memory — it upheld the provisions of the National Security Act (NSA). In 1994, it upheld the draconian Terrorism and Anti-Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). In 1996, it upheld the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In 2004, it upheld the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). A study of these cases reveals a pattern: the provisions of the laws were exceedingly broad and vague. They allowed the State to detain people for years without trial. And the actual conviction rate was extremely low, as most cases would fall apart for lack of evidence by the end of the trial. However, in examining these laws, the Supreme Court characterised the issue in terms of individual instances of State “abuse”, which could be corrected by recourse to administrative remedies. It failed to take into account that when “abuse” is baked into the language and structure of these laws, it is no longer “abuse”; rather, it is the use of the laws that is designed to suffocate civil liberties.

Thus, for the challenge to sedition to be successful, the Supreme Court will have to squarely confront its past record of reflexively deferring to the State whenever the words “national security” are mentioned before it. A seven-judge bench would have the authority to do just that; it remains to be seen, however, whether the dead hand of the past will continue to exert its force on the living.

Finally, it is worth remembering that sedition is only one out of an entire bouquet of repressive laws. Some of those laws have been set out above. But perhaps the most notorious is the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). This law — and the manner in which it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in its Watali judgment — sets an almost impossibly high threshold for the grant of bail to an accused. What this means in practice is that once the UAPA is involved, people are likely to spend months and years in prison without trial. This is the present fate of the accused individuals in the Bhima Koregaon case, where incarceration without trial has now crossed three years. It is therefore critical to understand that sedition is one strand in a web of legislation that, taken together, sacrifices civil rights at the altar of State expediency.

Thus, if the Supreme Court’s consideration of sedition is not to become a merely symbolic exercise, where — in the future — the UAPA simply replaces sedition on police chargesheets, its judgment must do something more than simply striking down one law. It must craft a fresh anti-impunity jurisprudence that places human dignity and freedom at the forefront, and no longer tolerates the existence of boundlessly manipulable laws in the name of “national security”.

Time for new laws to shield free speech?

The Times of India, Feb 17 2016

N S Nappinai

The polarised views ranging from the politically correct positions on free speech, including from politicians who did nothing to remedy excesses whilst in office, to the inexplicable support for this uncalled for police action against students, with misconceived notions and you get a picture more confusing than Picasso's Guernica.The voice of reason cautioning against coercive restraints on free speech or the populist Bajirao Singham V .2's deep-toned perorations against turning students into criminals are lost in the cacophony of self-righteous indignation supporting labelling of slogan -shouting students as seditionists and criminals.

Seditious Dissensions

S.124A IPC militates against inciting hatred or contempt or creating disaffection (i.e., disloyalty feelings of enmity) towards the “government established by law“ in India. Despite the patent infirmities in the provision, sedition, as a criminal offence, continues in our statute books, owing to political whim and politics at play . The constitution bench of the Supreme Court in Kedarnath's case set the threshold for applying “sedition“ at actual violence or incitement to violence (“spark to a powder keg“) or subverting government, by violent means, through words written or spoken.

This threshold definitely did not extend to punishing slogan-shouting. In Balwant Singh's case, where slogans including “Khalistan Zindabad“ were raised, the SC struck down the prosecution case and came down heavily on what it termed as immature and insensitive police actions, which could have created a law and or der situation. Whilst the JNU incident could be termed obnoxious or offensive, it is still insufficient, as decided in Shreya Singhal's case (striking down S.66A of the Information Technology Act) to scuttle free speech on these grounds and definitely does not warrant tagging students as criminals.

The Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution argument warranting reasonable restrictions was insufficient to save S.66A. Whilst so, the more draconian S.124A IPC has continued, probably as it is pitched at protecting the State as opposed to individuals.

Nation Vs Government

The genealogy of the colonial hand-me-down, as a tool of suppression, is clearly contrary to even remote concepts of democracy and ought to have been discarded with the empire. Substitution of “Her Majesty“ with “government established by law“ did not take away the oppressive flavour but has in fact lent itself to further abuse. “Government“ and “Nation“ neither mean the same nor are they interchangeable. A nation is distinct from the persons administering it i.e., the government, vested with powers and duties to ensure cohesive functioning of the nation.

Referencing “sedition“ to the “government established by law“ instead of a much narrower application of “national security“ was and continues to be a recipe for disaster. The SC stopped short of holding the provision unconstitutional by interpreting “government established by law“ to mean the visible symbol of the State.

Given the propensity for abuse, S.124A IPC could be relooked to narrow its applica tion to protecting “national interests“, if it cannot be done away with completely . After all, aren't controversial or offensive ideas and their expression as much a part of democratic freedoms as being politically correct? And are we not otherwise relegating the people, who have surren dered some freedoms in the hope of protection of those recognised as fundamental to their existence being punished by the very representatives they have elected? Criminal provisions have to also be explicit and should certainly not be left in the hands of police to interpret and apply . Neither can a person raising his voice in anger nor the police trying to pre vent violence, pause to ponder the fine balance between freedoms and social order. Judicial review also cannot be the remedy for correcting the imbalance between guaranteed freedoms and police excesses. Dissensions to protect the rights of dissenters after police action are essential reminders of our freedoms but have proven to be futile diatribes.

Make in India

The US appeals court held in Garcia vs Google that suppression of speech, however offensive or obnoxious, merely to avoid violence was an intolerable fetter on free speech.

India has consistently drawn inspiration from existing laws in formulating its legal framework. It may now be time for India to make its own laws in India to suit Indian socio-legal requirements and in particular to protect the bastions of democracy-free speech and expression. Indian democracy craves and is entitled to the culture of open dialogue and free flow of opinions and meaningful governance.

Until such affirmative action is taken, the Supreme Court's words of restraint in Rangarajan vs Jagjivan Ram, that remote, conjectural or far-fetched anticipated danger, is not used as an excuse to scuttle free expression ought to guide and protect our paths to free speech.


1951, Nehru’s dilemma To repeal the law or not

Satya Prakash, To repeal or not: Nehruvian dilemma on sedition law, September 10, 2018: The Tribune

Even 71 years of Independence, India continues to struggle to get rid of sedition that was widely used to crush freedom struggle

WHILE introducing the First Amendment to the Constitution in Parliament in 1951, Jawaharlal Nehru had famously said, “Now so far as I am concerned that particular Section (124A IPC) is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons, if you like, in any body of laws that we might pass. The sooner we get rid of it the better.”

However, the often-quoted statement is only the first part of what he had said. Here is the second part of what he said on sedition: “We might deal with that matter in other ways, in more limited ways, as every other country does but that particular thing, as it is, should have no place, because all of us have had enough experience of it in variety of ways and apart from the logic of the situation, our urges are against it.”

Nehru dithered on the issue and his government went ahead with the First Amendment that strengthened Article 19(2) of the Constitution by adding two expressions — “friendly relations with foreign state” and “public order” – as grounds for imposing “reasonable restrictions” on free speech.

The result: Even 71 years of Independence, India continues to struggle to get rid of sedition that was widely used to crush freedom struggle. A ‘Consultation Paper on Sedition’ released by the Law Commission of India late last month has only highlighted the dilemma of a democratic polity where the quality of relationship between the state and society is often determined by the degree of violence unleashed by non-state actors and the use of force by the state to counter it.

Sedition was not there in the original IPC drafted by Lord Macaulay that came into force in 1862 and was added in 1870. Its ambit was expanded in 1898. Section 124A says a person commits the crime of sedition if he/she brings or attempts to bring in hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in India. It can be by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise. It prescribes the maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

It clarified that criticism of public measures or comments on government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.

Interestingly, the Punjab High Court in Tara Singh Gopi Chand v. The State (1951) had declared Section 124A IPC unconstitutional.

In 1962, it was on the basis of “public order” in Article 19(2) that SC in Kedarnath Singh’s case upheld the validity of Section 124A. But it restricted its scope.

In Balwant Singh’s case (1995), the SC let off two men accused of raising anti-India slogans hours after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, saying raising of slogans a couple of times – which neither evoked any response nor any reaction from the public – couldn’t attract sedition.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 35 persons were arrested on sedition charges in 2016 in the country. The number may not be too high. But there are legitimate concerns as often activists are at the receiving end of sedition law.

Many countries, including the UK and Australia, have abolished sedition. Given the challenges it faces on the internal security front, the state needs a legal tool to protect its sovereignty. But in a democratic society, free speech is equally important.

Sedition law can be repealed as there are many other penal provisions to deal with such acts. Its scope can be restricted and punishment can be rationalised. Also, there can be safeguards installed to check its misuse.

Political thinker Thomas Paine once said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” This statement sums up the dilemma of a democratic society.

1986 (EPW), 2001 (students with leaflets)

The Indian Express, Feb 20, 2016

Written by Deepak Nayyar

It is instructive to remember the fate of the sedition charges pressed by two governments, run by two parties, in the past. Both had happy endings.

The dictionary meaning of sedition is conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the state. Its legal meaning is inciting violence towards insurrection of established order and lawful authority, including subversion of the Constitution. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which does not use the word sedition, defines it as any action, by words, signs or visible representation, which “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards a government established by law”. It is a draconian law from the colonial era making such an act punishable with imprisonment for life. Though its application is also not feasible in the turbulent politics of the Republic of India, which is a strong, vibrant and participative democracy, it still remains one of the used, if not most, provisions of the Indian Penal Code. What is more, it seeks to negate the very idea of freedom, inquiry, questions, dissent and debate constitute the essential foundations of learning that make for good citizens in a democracy.

Yet, it is not the first time that the sedition law has been used in independent India. And it will not be the last time. It is neither rare nor frequent. But it happens often enough when it serves a political purpose. Governments invoke the law and the opposition cries foul. The irony of double standards is striking. The same political parties when in government cite the national interest and when in opposition wax eloquent about rights or freedoms.

In 1986, Krishna Raj, the then editor of the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), had been charged for sedition by Bombay Police. The reason cited in the charge was a signed article by a contributor in the EPW who had alleged atrocities on civilians in Amritsar, by the army, in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar.

In a meeting with Rajiv Gandhi for a brief 15 minutes, as a concerned citizen, I said that the EPW was an independent, credible voice on economy, polity and society in India and an important, indeed unique, institution in our vibrant democracy. I argued that charging its editor with sedition was totally inappropriate and unjustified. Instead, the government could consider legal action against the author, not the editor, under any other law of the land. He heard me out and asked just one question: “If I agree to what you are suggesting, the army will be unhappy but what will people think?” My answer was simple: “People will admire your sagacity and wisdom in preserving the essential values of democracy.” He smiled. And our meeting was over. The PM had spoken to the CM of Maharashtra communicating the PM’s decision to drop sedition charges against the editor of the EPW.

The second experience was in October 2001. Following 9/11, the United States started its bombing of Afghanistan. At a demonstration in Seelampur, five of our students were arrested for distributing leaflets and shouting slogans. To my dismay, I learnt that they were charged with sedition. I requested an appointment with the deputy PM, who was also the home minister.

I met L.K. Advani and told him that five University of Delhi students had been arrested and charged with sedition. There were protests against the US bombing of Afghanistan everywhere in the world. Our students also had the same democratic right to protest. The charge of sedition was totally inappropriate and unjustified. If they had disturbed the peace, they could be charged for that. As vice chancellor, however, it was my duty to ensure that no injustice was done to my students. The DPM listened to me patiently for 15 minutes and said he would let me know. Advani said that he had considered the matter and decided that the sedition charges against the five students would be dropped.

There are some obvious conclusions. First, the sedition charges must be dropped. Second, the colonial law on sedition must be repealed. Third, governments and parties must stop playing politics in universities. Fourth, the time has come for universities to reclaim their freedom and space from intervening governments and intrusive politics: Autonomy is as autonomy does.

2015: Sedition charge on FM Arun Jaitley for criticising SC’s NJAC ruling

October 22, 2015: The Times of India

A UP court has slapped sedition charges on finance minister Arun Jaitley for criticizing the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) for selection of judges to the higher judiciary.

Taking suo motu cognizance of Jaitley’s criticism of the verdict, civil judge of Mahoba in Jhansi district Ankit Goel summoned him to be present before him on November 19. Goel had earlier issued summons against SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for his purported comment that allegations of gang rape could often be fabricated.

The judge in his order said the finance minister’s blog ‘Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected’ prima facie amounted to sedition under Section 124A as well as causing public mischief under Section 505 of Indian Penal Code. The court said under Section 190 of Criminal Procedure Code, it was entitled to take cognizance of the statements which were published in various newspapers.

Section 124A says “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 shall be punished under the section”.

Several people, including constitutional experts, have criticized the verdict of the apex court which on October 16 quashed the NJAC Act and revived the two-decade-old collegium system for appointment of judges. The finance minister, writing in his personal capacity, had held that the SC’s verdict striking down the 99th constitutional amendment to turn the appointment of judges into an exclusive prerogative of judiciary was tantamount to rewriting the Constitution.

Saying that the SC was acting like a third chamber of the legislature, he suggested that the verdict was biased against the political class and was a prescription for “tyranny of the unelected”.

Noted criminal lawyer Amarendra Saran termed the civil judge’s order “atrocious”. “Just and fair criticism of the court’s verdict is allowed in our country and it is a part and parcel of evolution of law. We do criticize the order every day in court proceedings and that is why appeal is filed,” he said.

Saran said there was no ingredient of offence in the statement made by the finance minister and he did not commit any crime. “The order passed by the judge is without application of mind and it must be recalled,” he said.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said the judge had gone overboard in passing the order. “Criticism of SC is not even contempt of court, then how can sedition charges be slapped for criticizing an SC verdict?” he asked.

Some prominent cases, As in 2021

July 18, 2021: The Times of India

Sedition is a serious charge that the British introduced in India to silence dissent. Although, by definition, it applies when someone attempts to “excite feelings of disaffection towards the government.

Ayesha Sulthana FILMMAKER

Offence: Accusing the Centre of using a ‘biological weapon’ against the people of Lakshadweep, in a TV debate on June 7. Lakshadweep BJP chief complains her comment is in “bad taste and intended to create hatred and aversion in the minds of people.” Case registered on June 9.

Status: Kerala high court grants anticipatory bail on June 25. Refuses to stay investigation on July 2, saying it is at a nascent stage.


Offence: Editing and sharing a campaign document on the farmers’ protest with Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Delhi Police calls it a ‘toolkit’ meant to malign India as part of an international conspiracy. Also alleges it had hyperlinks to pro-Khalistani websites and Ravi had deleted a WhatsApp group created with the Poetic Justice Foundation, a “pro-Khalistani” outfit, to share the toolkit. The 22-yearold is arrested in Bengaluru on February 13.

Status: Ravi released on bail on February 23. Court says creation of WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous toolkit not an offence. “Offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments (sic).”


Offence: Criticising central government and PM Narendra Modi in a YouTube video about last year’s Delhi riots. BJP leader Ajay Shyam alleges Dua accused PM of using “death and terror attacks” to get votes. Complaint filed in Shimla on May 6, 2020. Status: Supreme Court quashes FIR in June 2021, restrains HP police from arresting Dua till further orders. SC says, “Journalists are entitled to protection against sedition charges when making critical comments against the government.”


Offence: “Inciting violence” during anti-CAA protests in Assam. Case filed on December 12, 2019.

Status: Special NIA court in Guwahati absolves Gogoi and three others after finding no material to frame charges. NIA moves Gauhati HC challenging this order.

Aminul Islam ASSAM MLA

Offence: Calling quarantine facilities “worse than detention centres” in a video and accusing BJP government in Assam of “conspiring against Muslims.” Arrested in April 2020.

Status: Gauhati HC grants bail on the condition he will not approach, intimidate or threaten any witness, and will not delay the process of trial.


Offence: “Maligned and disregarded the sacrifices of martyrs” in a social media post on April 5. After Maoists killed 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh, Sarma “urged” the media not to call them “martyrs” as they were drawing salary for their services.

Status: Gauhati HC grants bail on April 19 saying it is her personal view.

TV channels TV5 & ABN Andhra Jyoti

Offence: Broadcasting interview of Andhra Pradesh MP KR Ramakrishnam Raju who had fallen out with ruling party YSRCP. Both channels charged with sedition and promoting communal hatred in May this year.

Status: SC restrains AP police from taking coercive action against channels. Bench says FIRs appear to be an attempt to “muzzle media freedom”. Justice DY Chandrachud says, “It is time we define the limits of sedition.”


Offence: Accused of insulting National Anthem by BJP youth wing BJYM after this extract from his book appears on social media: “At 4pm every day, these students had to stand up for the national anthem. As urinating was more important for me than Jana Gana Mana, I preferred to be an undisciplined student.”

Status: Police drop sedition charge after widespread protests

Amulya Leona Noronha STUDENT-ACTIVIST

Offence: Raising pro-Pak slogans during anti-CAA-NRC protests in Freedom Park, Bengaluru. Arrested in February 2020 and lodged in jail.

Status: Granted bail as police fail to submit chargesheet against the 19-year-old within 90 days. Bengaluru police later submit chargesheet; hearing yet to begin.

Use, abuse over the years

Soutik Biswas, Why India needs to get rid of its sedition law: 29 August 2016: BBC

Indian college lecturers, teachers and political activists hold placards as they shout anti-government slogans in New Delhi on February 12, 2011 during a protest against the life sentence handed down to doctor and social activist, Binayak Sen, on charges of sedition in India's Chhattisgarh state. Amnesty International has described Binayak Sen as a 'prisoner of conscience' but the court insisted the doctor helped outlawed Maoist guerrillas in the insurgency-riven state. An Indian court on February 10 refused bail for Sen sentenced to life in prison on charges of helping Maoist insurgents, in a case that has drawn international condemnation.

India's colonial era sedition law was introduced in the 1870s

In India, you could be charged with sedition for liking a Facebook post, criticising a yoga guru, cheering a rival cricket team, drawing cartoons, asking a provocative question in a university exam, or not standing up in a cinema when the national anthem is being played.

So when actress-politician Divya Spandana, better known by her screen name Ramya, made some remarks last week praising Pakistan, a lawyer filed a private case in a local court, seeking to get her charged with sedition for "appreciating the people of Pakistan", India's neighbour and rival.

Ramya had returned from a trip to Islamabad and found Pakistan was "not hell" - a riposte to the Indian Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, who recently remarked that going to Pakistan was the "same as going to hell".


Lawyer K Vittal Gowda was clearly not impressed.

"By saying that people in Pakistan are good, she has committed sedition. This is an anti-national statement," he told my colleague Imran Qureshi in Bangalore, after filing his complaint. India's info-tech capital is no stranger to such allegedly seditious activities: earlier this month, city police slapped a sedition case against Amnesty International India after some people allegedly raised "anti-India slogans at its event".

For decades, successive governments have used a colonial-era sedition law - the dreaded section 124a of the antiquated Indian Penal Code - against students, journalists, intellectuals, social activists, and those critical of the government.

India's sedition law

Section 124a in The Indian Penal Code.

- The law makes "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" punishable by law, a fine and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

- Drafted by Thomas Macaulay, it was introduced in the 1870s, originally to deal with "increasing Wahabi activities between 1863 and 1870 that posed a challenge to the colonial government".

- In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the law was mainly used against Indian political leaders seeking independence from British rule.

- Mahatma Gandhi, who was charged with sedition, famously said the law was "designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen".

- In the decades after independence in 1947, the law was used against people accusing the ruling Congress government of corruption and tyranny, and little-known Communist leaders who exhorted people to "overthrow the government and capitalists".

- In 1951, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru described the law as "highly objectionable and obnoxious".

- In 1962, the Supreme Court imposed limits on the use of the law, making incitement to violence a necessary condition.

- More than half-a-century after the top court imposed restrictions on using the law, authorities appear to be flouting it with impunity.

- As many as 47 sedition cases were reported in 2014 alone, across nine states, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Many of these cases did not involve any violence or incitement to violence. A total of 58 people were arrested in connection with the cases. The government has only managed one conviction.

Indian police clash with protestors on the beach at Idinathakarai village near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in southern Tamil Nadu on September 10, 2012. Police in a southern Indian state shot dead a fisherman and clashed with with activists who were protesting the start of work at a nuclear power plant, officials said.

Consider this:

- In September 2001, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested after a complaint that his cartoons mocked the constitution and national emblem. The charges were dropped a month later following widespread criticism and public protests.

- In March 2014, 60 Kashmiri students in Uttar Pradesh were charged with sedition for cheering for Pakistan in a cricket match against India. Authorities dropped the charges following legal advice from the law ministry.

- In August 2014, authorities in Kerala charged seven young men, including students, with sedition after a complaint that they had refused to stand up during the national anthem in a cinema.

- In October 2015, folk singer S Kovan was held in Tamil Nadu for two songs criticising the state government for allegedly profiting from state-owned liquor shops at the expense of the poor.

- In February 2016, student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested and charged with sedition for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans. He was later freed on bail.

- In 2012 and 2013, an astonishing number of 23,000 men and women who protested against a nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu were held for "waging war against the state" and sedition - 9,000 of them for sedition alone. "Police would name a few accused and then add 2,000 others without naming them while booking them for sedition. That's how arbitrary it is," anti-nuclear activist SP Udayakumar tells me.

'Instilling fear'

Some 140 cases, half of them related to sedition, against the protesters are being heard in the courts today. "The law is purely used now to instil fear and intimidate people who protest against authority," says Mr Udayakumar.

Things seem to be getting worse.

Media watchdog The Hoot says it is "raining sedition charges in an otherwise normal monsoon season" this year. It has listed 18 cases involving sedition charges against 19 people in the first eight months of 2016.

India's slow moving judicial system ensures prolonged delays in disposing cases. Meanwhile, people charged with sedition have to surrender their passports, are not eligible for government jobs, must produce themselves in the court as and when required, and spend money on legal fees. "The charges have rarely stuck in most of the cases, but the process itself becomes the punishment," says Jayshree Bajoria , co-writer of a Human Rights Watch report on "stifling dissent" in India.

In August 2016, a non-profit group also mounted a fresh legal challenge against the "misuse" of the law in the Supreme Court.

Common Cause urges the top court to make it compulsory for the authorities to "produce a reasoned order" from the local chief of police certifying that the seditious act could either lead to incitement of violence or could lead to public disorder, before any police complaint or arrest can be made.

Most believe India should simply get rid of the law along with a raft of vaguely-worded, draconian laws - the criminal defamation laws and laws to curb hate speech and silence dissent, for example. "Sedition itself needs to enter the dustbin of oppressive legal history," says lawyer Karuna Nundy.

Clearly, scrapping the law would be a good beginning. "The sooner we get rid of it the better," Nehru had said. That was more than half-a-century ago.


Prabhash K Dutta, May 11, 2022: The Times of India

Sedition: From Nehru to now, how govts conveniently shifted stand on sedition | India News - Times of India 
The word “sedition”, however, is nowhere mentioned in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which is at the centre of this debate. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested in 2012 for making caricatures that offended the government

What the law says 
 IPC Section 124A reads, “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 which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.” 
India inherited this law from the British colonial rulers. 1. Aseem Trivedi case is reason why sedition law needs to go

2. Sedition: Why does India follow a law that the world has junked?

3. India's best chance to strike down the sedition law is now

4. Will Supreme Court rid India of this cruel British legacy?

5. How to stop abuse of sedition law without repealing it

Birth of sedition 
Thomas Macaulay – the man who is credited with bringing English education to India – was the one who presided over the drafting of the IPC, which was enforced in 1860 against the backdrop of the Revolt of 1857. The sedition law, drafted by Macaulay, was not made a part of the IPC in the beginning, and introduced in India in 1870. 
Its immediate objective was to deal with the “increasing Wahabi activities” – an armed resistance inspired by Islamic clerics and posed a threat to the British colonial government. 
The British rulers viewed India differently. They were ruling over a nation and had a government of their own to run the administration. Those who saw discrimination by the British rulers and voiced their views against the government were seen as potential threat to their ‘raj’ (rule). 
 Even to the British, sedition was a crime against the government, not the nation – either Indian or the British. They needed a law to protect their government in India. Its use was arbitrary and punitive. The tallest of freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were jailed for sedition by the British. 
 After Independence 
The views of Mahatma Gandhi and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, among others, set the tone for sedition law-free country. When the Constitution was adopted in 1950, it did not recognise sedition as a legal binding on the citizens. 
Mahatma Gandhi ridiculed the sedition law calling it the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”. 
Nehru called it “highly objectionable and obnoxious” which “should have no place in any body of laws that we might pass”. Nehru said, “The sooner we get rid of it the better.” Return of sedition law

When the Constitution was adopted, laws inconsistent with the protection given under the fundamental rights became void. But soon, newspapers and magazines began criticising the state and the central governments over a range of issues, including refugee influx and alleged political killings.

Courts such as the Bombay high court and the Patna high court gave verdicts against the governments and in favour of freedom of speech. Two important cases – filed by publications CrossRoads and Organiser – came before the Supreme Court, which pronounced judgment against the Nehru government in 1950 itself, a few months after the Constitution was adopted.

In 1951, Nehru moved the first amendment bill to prevent “abuse of freedom of speech and expression” guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution. This brought back the sedition law in force in independent India.

The journey

Through successive governments and court judgments, the sedition law has survived. Two cases are considered landmarks. The first is known as the Kedar Nath Singh judgment of 1962. Kedar Nath Singh was a political leader in Bihar, where he told a rally in 1953, “The dogs of the CID [Criminal Investigation Department] are loitering around. We will strike and throw out these Congress goondas.”

A five-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the sedition law but added a rider that mere criticism of the government was not sedition. It requires an act of violence or planning of violence.

The second case was about raising anti-India pro-Khalistan slogans after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, in October 1984. Two public servants – Balwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh – allegedly raised slogans such as “Khalistan Zindabad”, “Raj Karega Khalsa” and “Hindustan Murdabad”.

In its 1995-judgment, the Supreme Court said raising slogans a couple of times by individuals alone did not amount to sedition. All these years, however, the government maintained that the sedition law was an essential tool to protect India’s unity and integrity. Climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested in Feb 2021 in connection with the Greta Thunberg 'toolkit' case

Law Commission reports

The Law Commission has examined the sedition law several times. From 1968 till 2017, most of its reports focused on making the sedition law effective. A break came in 2017, when it sought to differentiate between hate speech and sedition.

It said hate speech disturbs public peace directly and affects the State indirectly while sedition is a direct act of causing disaffection against the government. It said for an act to come under the crime of sedition, it must threaten the sovereignty and integrity of India and the security of the State.

Then in 2018, the Law Commission report called for a rethink on the sedition law. “Every irresponsible exercise of the right to free speech and expression cannot be termed seditious,” it said.

The current debate

Even the current debate on sedition has a decade-old beginning with the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in 2012 for making caricatures that were considered bad in taste but offended the government. Two years later, 60 Kashmiri students were booked for sedition in Uttar Pradesh for raising slogans during a cricket match.

In 2016 – a few months after the February incident on Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in which student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was booked for sedition, NGO Common Cause challenged the law in the Supreme Court. Its public interest litigation (PIL) sought necessary directions to the government and framing of guidelines to prevent the misuse of the sedition law. Student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was booked for sedition in 2016

While the plea remained before the Supreme Court, the Narendra Modi government stated its position inside and outside Parliament on the sedition law.

As the Modi government sought a fresh mandate in 2019, the then Union home minister Rajnath Singh told a rally, “The BJP will make sedition law more stringent if voted to power.” He criticised the Congress for promising to repeal it.

In Parliament, the government defended the law on multiple occasions – in July 2019, September 2020 and December 2021 – while the Supreme Court sought to know from it why the British-era law was not yet repealed.

In April this year, the Modi government sought more time from the Supreme Court before filing its replies in May. In its first affidavit, the government defended the sedition law last week. However, on May 9, the Centre said that in deference to PM Modi, the government would go for comprehensive review of the sedition law.

The government-led review is likely to be a long-drawn process. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court hearing a bunch of petitions on May 11 put the IPC Section 124A on hold, effectively pausing the sedition law till the government makes up its mind. This means no fresh cases of sedition could be filed against somebody criticising the government in whichever manner without inciting violence.

2022, May: SC puts Sec 124A on hold

Dhananjay Mahapatra, May 12, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court virtually suspended operation of the much-misused 124-year-old sedition provision to stop police from invoking it against anyone from now on and stayed both probe and trial in existing sedition cases to allow the Centre to examine softening the rigour of Section 124A in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to sync it with the present social milieu.

Not content with the Centre’s offer that in future no sedition FIR would be registered without prior approval of the area superintendent of police until the re-examination of the controversial provision had been completed, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli in their unprecedented order said, “We expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the governments. ”

The apex court craftily couched its directions as its “expectations”, secure in the knowledge that these are seldom betrayed by the executive. While staying investigation, trial and appeal proceedings in existing sedition cases registered, the bench said, “If any fresh case is registered under Section 124A, the affected parties are at liberty to approach the concerned courts for appropriate relief. ”

It asked the courts to examine relief sought by arrested persons taking into account the SC order and the Centre’s unambiguous stand.

Obviously you will not use the grey/ last paragraphs Don’t use graphic either

Fundamental rights and sedition

The Times of India, Feb 19 2016

Soli J Sorabjee

Sedition law should stay, but its interpretation must be specific and not wide-ranging as in British era 

No fundamental right in our Constitution is absolute. Free dom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted on the grounds specified in Article 19(2). It is significant that during the debates in the Constituent Assembly the founding fathers, in view of their bitter experience of the application of the sedition law by the British colonial regime, deliberately omitted `sedition' as one of the permissible grounds of restriction under Article 19(2) on freedom of speech and expression. However sedition as a criminal offence remains in the IPC and provides for inter alia sentence of life imprisonment and fine upon conviction. Section 124A was challenged in the Supreme Court as violative of the fundamental rights of free speech guaranteed by Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution.

The Federal Court of (British) India presided over by the distinguished Chief Justice, Maurice Gwyer, ruled that sedition law is not to be invoked “to minister to the wounded vanity of government ... The acts or words complained of must either incite to disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that that is their intention or tendency“.The Privy Council did not approve of the Federal Court judgment and placed a wide and literal interpretation of the section.

According to the Privy Council any speech or writing which evinced disloyalty or ill feelings towards the government could be regarded as sedition and persons guilty of such acts could be prosecuted and punished for committing the offence of sedition. Our Supreme Court in its landmark decision in 1962, in Kedarnath versus state of Bihar, dissented from the view of the Privy Council and preferred the view of the Federal Court.

According to the Supreme Court, mere criticism of the government or comments on the administration, however vigorous or pungent or even ill-informed, does not constitute sedition. The Supreme Court limited the application of Section 124A (sedition) to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.

Incitement to violence is the essential ingredient of the offence of sedition. That is our law, that is how Section 124A was interpreted and upheld as constitutional by a Constitution Bench. Therefore the question whether certain speech or acts constitute sedi tion are essentially questions of fact which have to be determined by a court of law keeping in mind the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in Kedarnath's case.

Thus shouting slogans like Pakistan zindabad, however deplorable, per se would not attract Section 124A. Criticism of judgment of the Supreme Court upholding the conviction of Afzal Guru on the ground that he did not have a fair trial, is untenable because in my opinion Afzal Guru had a fair trial at all stages of the proceedings.

Nonetheless criticism of the Supreme Court judgment, is again per se not sedition unless there is speech or acts which call for avenging the `injustice' done to Afzal Guru by commission of acts against the government or advocate its overthrow by violent means. If, and i repeat if, a person has said Hindustan murdabad, that the state is tyrannical and it is better to do away with it, necessary to overthrow it, that would constitute sedition.

But these facts have to be established in a court of law by following proper procedure. It is not for lawyers or political workers to prejudge the issue. An accused cannot be denied his or her fundamental right to fair trial by assaulting him or her or their supporters or their lawyers, as that would militate against the rule of law and also disrupt administration of justice by regular courts of the land.

These basic principles must be kept in mind in all cases. Mob rule and mob justice cannot be permitted however strongly one may dislike the accused and his alleged statements. If that happens the very basis of a civil society is undermined and there is no vibrant democracy prevalent in our country .

In my view Section 124A `Sedition' as interpreted by the Supreme Court is necessary . Its misuse is no ground for its deletion.

Court judgments

Supreme Court

Romesh Thappar v State of Madras/ 1950

March 11, 2021: The Times of India

What India’s Supreme Court said in 1950, on sedition and freedom of expression (Romesh Thappar v State of Madras)

Part 7 of the ‘Free to Air’ series

The last few years have been marked by a series of protests, where Indian citizens have collectively exercised their freedom of expression. These protests have also propelled the state to incarcerate certain prominent public activists on grounds of maintaining public order and by invoking the law on sedition. This raises certain inevitable questions – do all perceived breaches of public order, irrespective of their degree and potency, merit restriction on the freedom of expression? When does such a breach threaten to overthrow the state? A 1950 judgment of the Indian Supreme Court provides food for thought.

Romesh Thappar, a journalist and known Marxist ideologue, published and edited an English weekly journal called Cross Roads within the Madras state (as it then was). The journal regularly carried writings critical of the then Congress government’s policies. On March 1, 1950, the Madras government banned the entry and circulation of Cross Roads under Section 9(1A) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949, for securing public order and maintaining public safety within the state.

Thappar challenged this ban as well as Section 9(1A), claiming violation of his fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. The government argued that the 1949 Act was a law relating to the security of the state, and actions taken under it constituted a reasonable restriction on the freedom of expression. In a resounding victory for this freedom, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Thappar and set aside the government’s ban on Cross Roads. The Court categorically stated that “there can be no doubt that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of propagation of ideas, and that freedom is ensured by the freedom of circulation.”

Simultaneously, the Court also held that unless Section 9(1A) of the 1949 Act concerned any matter undermining the security of, or tending to overthrow the state, it would be unconstitutional for violating the freedom of expression, even if it may have been conceived generally in the interests of public order or public safety. The Court stated that the Constitution has varying criteria for permissible restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression, and draws a boundary between “serious and aggravated forms of public disorder which are calculated to endanger the security of the State and the relatively minor breaches of the peace of a purely local significance.” Only a higher degree of threat pertaining to the endangerment of the foundations of the state “could justify curtailment of the rights to freedom of speech and expression.”

The Court made a rather interesting observation on the process of drafting of clause (2) of Article 19, which is the provision comprising permissible restrictions on the freedom of expression. In its draft form, this provision allowed the government to conceive a law on “sedition” to justifiably restrict the freedom of expression. Eventually though, the Constitution framers deleted the word sedition from the draft. The Supreme Court pointedly commented on this aspect and said:

“Deletion of the word “sedition” … shows that criticism of Government exciting disaffection or bad feelings towards it is not to be regarded as a justifying ground for restricting the freedom of expression and of the press, unless it is such as to undermine the security of or tend to overthrow the State. … Thus, very narrow and stringent limits have been set to permissible legislative abridgement of the right of free speech and expression, and this was doubtless due to the realisation that freedom of speech and of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations.”

Ideally, this judgment should put to rest all doubts about when concerns around disturbance to public order would warrant restrictions on the freedom of expression. Yet, 71 years after this judgment, sedition continues to remain a punishable offence in India, and is invoked frequently as a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression. The slightest apprehension of disturbance to public order cannot warrant restraint on this freedom. If that were to be the case, democracy would have a tough time flourishing in India.

This piece has been compiled by Sruthakeerthy Sriram, Research Fellow, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy


What SC has said on Section 124A, May 2022
From: Dhananjay Mahapatra, April 28, 2022: The Times of India

See graphic:

What SC has said on Section 124A, May 2022

SC, 2016

The Times of India, Sep 06 2016

AmitAnand Choudhary

The Supreme Court clarified that sedition charges cannot be brought against a person merely for raising a voice against the government or its policies. The clarification became necessary in view of the controversy generated after sedition charges were slapped in a number of cases recently , sparking demands for the colonial-era law to be scrapped.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit said that the apex court had settled the controversy on sedition law way back in 1962 and had clarified under what circumstances the penal provi sion could be used.

“We are of the opinion that the authorities, while dealing with offences under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, shall be guided by the principles laid down by the Constitution Bench in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar,“ the bench said. Refusing to re-examine the issue afresh, the bench said the guidelines framed by the Constitution bench 54 years ago were good enough in the present circumstances.

The SC clarified in its 1962 verdict that a “citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder“.

The court had pointed out two essential ingredients required to establish the crime of sedition -the acts must be intended to have the “effect of subverting the government“ by violent means, and the acts must be intended to create disorder or disturbance of public peace and order by re sort to violence and must incite violence. It had clarified that comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapproval of government actions, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence was not sedition.

Seeking the court's intervention to stop misuse of IPC Section 124A, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, contended that it was high time the court examined the issue as the law was misused de spite the apex court's order.He said police personnel were not aware of the 1962 verdict.

The law has not been amended after the Kedar Nath Singh judgment by the apex court and a constable does not understand the judgment, what he understands is the section in the IPC, he said.

Referring to an NCRB report, the plea said 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone and 58 people arrested in connection with these cases. The bench, however, was not convinced and refused to pass any direction.

"Sedition, defamation cannot be invoked for criticism": SC

The Hindu, September 6, 2016

Sedition or defamation cases cannot be slapped on anyone criticising the government, the Supreme Court said on Monday. “Someone making a statement to criticise the government does not invoke an offence under sedition or defamation law. We have made it clear that invoking of section 124(A) of IPC (sedition) requires certain guidelines to be followed as per the earlier judgement of the apex court,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit said.

The observation came as advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, said sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent. He cited the examples of sedition charges being slapped on agitators protesting against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, among others.

To this, the bench said, “We don’t have to explain the sedition law. It’s already there in the five-judge constitution bench judgment in Kedar Nath Singh vs state of Bihar of 1962.”

The court, while disposing of a petition filed by NGO Common Cause alleging misuse of the sedition law, refused to pass a direction on the plea that a copy of this order be sent to all Chief Secretaries of states and the Directors General of Police.

“You have to file separate plea highlighting if any misuse of sedition law is there. In criminal jurisprudence, allegations and cognisance have to be case specific, otherwise it will go haywire. There can’t be any generalisation,” the bench said.

Mr. Bhushan said law has not been amended after the Kedar Nath Singh judgment by the apex court and that a constable does not understand the judgment, but what he understands is the section in the IPC.

“Constables don’t need to understand. It is the magistrate who needs to understand and follow the guidelines as laid down by the apex court while invoking sedition charges,” the apex court said. The court was hearing a plea seeking the apex court’s intervention to address the “misuse” of section 124(A) of the IPC contending that such a charge was being framed with a view to “instil fear and scuttle dissent.”

The NGO’s plea said “there has been an increase in the number of cases of sedition against intellectuals, activists, students, with the latest being the sedition charge on Amnesty India for organising a debate on Kashmir.”

“In this regard, a petition has been filed to address the misuse and misapplication of Section 124A (sedition law) by the Centre and various State Governments leading to routine persecution of students, journalists and intellectuals engaged in social activism. It is submitted that these charges are framed with a view to instill fear and to scuttle dissent.”

Acting on a complaint by the ABVP on Saturday, Bengaluru police had slapped sedition charges against Amnesty International India after an event it had organised on allegations of human rights violations and denial of justice in Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to a National Crime Records Bureau report, the plea said that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone and 58 persons arrested in connection with these cases, but the government has managed only one conviction so far.

It cited a series of recent examples of activists being slapped with sedition charges, including Arundhati Roy in 2010 for alleged anti-India remarks at an event in Kashmir, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in 2012 for allegedly insulting the country through his cartoons, doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen, JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and DU professor S.A.R. Geelani.

The plea sought a direction that either Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police be asked to give a report before registration of an FIR for the offence of sedition that the act has led to violence or there was an intent on the part of the accused to create public disorder.

It also sought a direction that the investigations and prosecutions be dropped in cases where such a reasoned order was not provided and the act in question involved peaceful expression or assembly.

The constitutional validity of section 124(A) rests upon either an intention to create public disorder or incitement of violence, it had said.

Dissent curbed through Sedition law

Not acceptable: court/ 2021

Aamir Khan2, February 17, 2021: The Times of India

The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the state to maintain peace and order in society and it cannot be invoked to “quieten any disquiet under the pretence of muzzling miscreants”, a Delhi court has observed. The observation was made in the bail orders of two men, Devi Lal Burdak and Swaroop Ram, who were booked in the same FIR on charges of sedition, spreading rumours, forgery, etc, for allegedly sharing fake videos on social media during the ongoing farmers’ protest.

Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana observed: “In the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resorting to violence or any allusion or oblique remark or even any hint towards this objective attributable to the applicant accused, I suspect that Section 124A (sedition) IPC can be validly invoked against the applicant. In my considered opinion, on a plain reading of the tagline attributed to the applicant/accused, invocation of Section 124A of IPC is a seriously debatable issue.” The judge observed that “evidently, law proscribes any act which has a tendency to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence.”

Dissent is not sedition: SC

March 3, 2021: The Times of India

Expression of view which is dissent from government not seditious: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Observing that expression of a view which is dissent from a decision taken by the Central Government itself cannot be said to be seditious, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a PIL seeking action against National Conference president Farooq Abdullah over his comments on abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta rejected the plea and also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the petitioners for making such claims and directed them to deposit the amount with the Supreme Court Advocates Welfare Fund within four weeks. "The expression of a view which is dissent from a decision taken by the Central Government itself cannot be said to be seditious. There is nothing in the statement which we find so offensive as to give a cause of action for a Court to initiate proceedings.

"Not only that, the petitioners have nothing to do with the subject matter and this is clearly a case of publicity interest litigation for the petitioners only to get their names in press. We must discourage such endeavours," the bench said.

The top court was hearing a plea which referred to his statement on restoring Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and contended it clearly amounts to a seditious act and therefore he is liable to be punished under section 124-A of the IPC.

The petition filed by Rajat Sharma and Dr Neh Srivastava, both belonging to an organisation Vishwa Guru India Vision of Sardar Patel, alleged that the former chief minister is trying to "hand over" Kashmir to China and thus, he should be prosecuted for Sedition.

"Mr Farooq Abdullah has committed an offence punishable under section 124-A of Indian Penal Code. As he has made the live statement that for restoring Article 370 he would take help of China which clearly amount to seditious act and therefore he is liable to be punished under section 124-A of the IPC," the plea said.

The petitioners also referred to a statement made by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra to claim that Abdullah is misleading the people of Jammu and Kashmir to join China for the restoration of Article 370 of the Constitution.

Bombay HC, 2015

The Times of India, Mar 18 2015

Swati Deshpande

`Trivedi toons lacked wit, but not seditious'

A citizen can say or write anything critical about the government, or its measures, as long it does not incite violence or is intended to dis rupt public peace and create disorder, the Bombay HC said while holding that cartoons by Aseem Trivedi in 2011 lacked wit but were not seditious as charged by the police. The HC also directed the police to “scrupulously implement new guidelines issued by the Maharashtra government that place checks on filing frivolous sedition cases.

“Cartoons or caricatures are visual representations, words or signs which are supposed to have an element of wit, humour or sarcasm. Having seen the seven cartoons in question, it is difficult to find wit, humour or sarcasm. The cartoons at a meeting on November 27, 2011, in Mumbai, as part of a movement by Anna Hazare against corruption in India, were full of anger and disgust against corruption in the political system and had no wit, humour or sarcasm, the HC said on Tuesday , holding that the sedition charge was not attracted against Trivedi.

“But for that reason, the freedom of speech and expression available to Trivedi to express indignation against corruption in the political system in strong terms or visual representations could not have been encroached upon when there is no allegation of incitement to violence or tendency or intention to create public disorder, the HC bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Jus tice Nitin Jamdar said.

Trivedi's arrest was for serious criminal life imprisonment attracting charge of sedition, among other offences. But the HC ordered his bail three days after his arrest on September 11 following a plea by a city lawyer, and then state advocategeneral Darius Khambata found the invocation excessive. The Bandra-Kurla Complex then dropped the sedition charge.

Uttarakhand HC, 2020

Kautilya Singh & Prashant Jha, October 29, 2020: The Times of India

Criticising govt not sedition, says HC


In its order in which the Uttarakhand HC directed a CBI probe to be conducted into corruption charges levelled against CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, the court also called for quashing of an FIR in which Section 124-A of the IPC (pertaining to sedition) was slapped on journalist Umesh Kumar Sharma, the man who had made the allegations against the CM.

“There is no material to show what criminal conspiracy was done, and prima-facie, no offence under Section 120-B IPC is made out,” the single bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani said, adding, “Unless public functionaries are criticised, democracy cannot be strengthened...if dissent is suppressed under the sedition law, it would make democracy weak. Criticising the government can never be sedition.”

Sharma had alleged that bribe money was deposited into the bank accounts of the CM’s close relatives and associates during demonetisation in 2016. The allegation was that the money was paid by a Ranchi-based individual Amratesh Chauhan as part of a deal with Rawat to facilitate his appointment as chairman of Gau Seva Aayog of Jharkhand. CM Rawat said he is “open to investigation”.

Sedition cases/ Offences against the state registered in


Kunal Purohit, July 16, 2021: The Times of India

Kunal Purohit


Jul 16, 2021

Data with the National Crime Records Bureau showed that while 559 people were arrested for sedition between 2014 and 2019, only 10 people were convicted of the charges, 73 were acquitted and the rest waited for a verdict.

But a recently launched database finds the opposite — how successive governments have increasingly used the sedition law to target dissenters, quell criticism and crush protests.

The sedition database, launched by, which tracks all sedition cases filed between 2010 and 2020, found that nearly 11,000 individuals have been targeted with the colonial law since January 1, 2010. The database found an uptick in cases filed in recent years — a 28% average increase in cases filed annually since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

How sedition law is used to suppress dissent against govt

- Since 2010, 10,938 Indians have been accused of sedition in 816 cases

- 65% of the accused since 2010 were charged after May 2014

- There have been more sedition cases on average each year under the NDA govt

- The Kudankulam nuclear power plant protests in 2011 led to the most sedition cases in a year (130), under UPA govt

- From 39 cases in 2015, there was a spike in 2016 to 72 cases. Since then, the number rose consistently, going up to 107 in 2020

- According to NCRB, 559 persons were arrested for sedition between 2014 and 2019. Of them, only 10 were convicted

- Five states — Bihar, Karnataka, Jharkhand, UP and Tamil Nadu — account for 65% cases since 2010


31 sedition cases were filed against journalists and writers, 67 against politicians, the database found. But what makes Trivedi’s fight peculiar is that he was the only cartoonist to be charged with sedition in the last decade, according to the database.

Different strokes

In 2016, when unverified videos cropped up of some students at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University allegedly shouting “antinational” slogans, the response was starkly different. Two days after the event, a BJP MP Mahesh Giri and ABVP leaders lodged a complaint against unknown students. The next day, the head of the JNU Students' Union Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested.

Instead of waiting to check the evidence, television channels rushed in to declare the students guilty — primetime anchors were outraged and called for the heads of these students. Some channels even ran videos by ABVP leaders without verifying them, claiming that the students were chanting such slogans, while others claimed there was a “conspiracy” against the country.

Days later, speaking in Parliament, HRD minister Smriti Irani defended the action, declaring, even when investigations were still on, and a trial yet to begin, that Kumar and other students had been “found indulging in anti-national activities”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi backed her, tweeted a link to her speech and said “Satyameva Jayate!”. The anger and hate directed at these students spilled out of television screens and social media timelines and into the streets. Teachers and students from JNU were attacked by lawyers at a Delhi court, in the presence of the police. Two days later, Kumar was attacked twice inside the court premises, kicked, slapped and punched by another group of lawyers.

More recently, journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on October 5 last year on charges of sedition and under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), when he and three others were on their way to Hathras, after a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gangraped and murdered by four men. Kappan has spent nine months in prison, despite testing positive for Covid twice, and yet his bail has been rejected repeatedly, most recently on July 6. When Trivedi’s website was blocked for displaying “objectionable pictures and texts related to the flag and emblem of India,” there was outrage. A campaign titled ‘Save Your Voice’ was kicked off, with Trivedi and other IAC activists touring the country, going to colleges and campaigning against the move. Now, such blocking of online content is common, drawing little more than temporary outrage. In April, the Modi government ordered Facebook and Twitter to remove 100 posts and links critical of the government’s pandemic handling. In February, with the farmer protests raging against the new farm laws, Twitter was forced to block 500 accounts and made an unspecified number of them restricted to Indian users, on orders of the Modi government.

“There are huge differences in the way Trivedi’s trial played out, as against what is happening now. The atmosphere is very rabid now,” says Rangarajan. Apart from the legal struggles that the accused have to contend with, what has also changed is the way those accused of sedition are now looked at, she adds. “Today, those facing sedition charges don’t have the same kind of public support they had — now, you have orchestrated social media campaigns, you have targeted news media coverage,” says Rangarajan. For Trivedi, thankfully, this wasn’t the case. After four nights in prison, Trivedi was released when the state government agreed to examine the case against him. After his release, Trivedi was feted as a near-celebrity. He was invited to lengthy interviews on news channels, he became a talking head for the cause of freedom of expression, he gave TED talks. He even lived the celebrity life — less than a month later, Trivedi spent four weeks inside the Bigg Boss house as a contestant on the popular reality show. In 2015, the Bombay high court, ruling in a PIL filed by a lawyer, Sanskar Marathe, ordered that the sedition charges against Trivedi be dropped. The court ruled that his cartoons were “full of anger and disgust” against corruption and that his freedom of speech and expression “could not have been encroached upon where there is no allegation of incitement to violence or the tendency or the intention to create public disorder.” That same year, the Supreme Court struck down the Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which criminalised posting “objectionable” comments online, saying that the provision “clearly affects” the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

Attention fades, struggle continues But 10 years on, the attention has faded away and Trivedi is still fighting his legal troubles. He is struggling to clear his name — still pending is the last charge, the Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, dealing with anyone who “burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or (shows disrespect to or brings) into contempt the Indian flag or the Constitution or any part thereof.” If convicted, Trivedi faces imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or a fine, or both. His life has changed dramatically, but Trivedi has learnt to maintain a positive outlook. “My life changed completely due to the sedition charge. One thing that happened was, it brought me closer to activism,” he says. Even that, though, might have only partly been by choice. Ever since the dramatic events of 2011 and 2012, Trivedi’s career as a cartoonist took a hit. His assignments with newspapers, at that point his only source of income, dried up. Editors started refusing his calls.

“I have had no work with newspapers since then. I spoke to some people and they didn’t seem very positive (about working together), so I let it be,” he says, mildly. He has stopped cartooning now, completely. He is slowly veering towards writing. Married for six years now, Trivedi has also shifted base to Delhi. After the Centre passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, which fast-tracked citizenship for non-Muslim refugees from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries, Trivedi organised talks under the banner of ‘Free Speech Talk’, mobilising opposition to the act. Trivedi now plans to revive it. Rangarajan points to the long-ongoing trial and says that in most sedition cases, the process itself was the punishment. “Sedition cases like this one wash away the basic principles of criminal law — that you are innocent till proven guilty or that there will be a due process and that the law is meant to ensure the weak don’t get oppressed,” she says. Trivedi’s trial is far from over, but when it’ll get over, its meaning “goes away” in the face of such delay, Rangarajan adds. “He has lost so much time, just proving that he is innocent. How do you compensate for the time lost?” Trivedi echoes her words, reflecting on his recent years as an activist on freedom of speech issues. “What many don’t realise is that from the time the case is filed to the time you finish the fight, your mental status, your financial status, everything changes so much.

Your life’s priorities have changed, maybe you are forced to not fight the same fight anymore, as you were when you first began,” he says.

And yet, Trivedi says, he nearly feels lucky to have been incarcerated then and not now. He isn’t sure if he would have gotten that kind of support, had he been arrested now. “The difference between then and now also is that the sedition is now the central narrative of the government,” he says, referring to the Modi government. “Earlier, it was a side-narrative, employed sparingly. But now, it is used to decide who is pro-India and who isn’t. Anyone who dissents or criticises the government, becomes a political untouchable.” Sedition is not just about dissent, he feels, it is used to ensure that everyone has the same set of ideas. “That is why sedition is the death of pluralism.”


233 slapped with sedition charge in 5 yrs

At least 233 people were slapped with the charge of sedition for alleged antinational activities in the last five years, junior home minister G K Reddy informed the Rajya Sabha. He said as per NCRB, sedition charge under IPC section 124A was slapped against 70 people in 2018, 51in 2017, 35 in 2016, 30 in 2015 and 47 in 2014.


30 sedition cases registered in 2015; 17 less than in 2014, By Neeraj Chauhan Aug 31 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)

At a time when a polarising debate on the use of sedition laws was being played out, a total of 30 sedition cases were registered in 2015 with nine being registered in Bihar, followed by three each in Haryana, Karnataka and Kerala. Nationally , there were 17 less such cases in 2015 compared to that in 2014.

Data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) also say that 571 cases of `offence against the state' were registered all over the country in 2015 with Uttar Pradesh topping the list with 60 such cases, followed by southern states of Telangana (54, Karnataka (49) and Kerala (45).

While the use of the sedition law against JNU students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar for a meeting that allegedly eulogised Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru became a heated political controversy , the number of cases registered have been limited. In Jammu & Kashmir, only one case of sedition was reported despite incidents of unrest and anti-India demonstrations.

`Offences against the state', which was listed by NCRB for the first time last year, include waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the government (Section 121of IPC), conspiracy to commit offences punishable by Section 121 (Section 121A) and collecting arms with intention of waging war against the government (Section 122), among others.


Bharti.Jain, May 10, 2022: The Times of India

Persons arrested under the sedition law in 2018-20
From: Bharti.Jain, May 10, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: A total 356 cases of sedition — as defined under Section 124A of IPC — were registered and 548 persons arrested between 2015 and 2020, according to statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). However, just 12 persons arrested in seven sedition cases were convicted in this six-year period. 
As many as 44 persons were arrested under the sedition law in 2020, as compared to 99 in 2019; 56 in 2018; 228 in 2017; 48 in 2016; and 73 in 2015. Total cases registered under Section 124A across the country were 73 in 2020; 93 in 2019; 70 in 2018; 51 in 2017; 35 in 2016 and 30 in 2015. The conviction rate of sedition cases was 33. 3% in 2020; 3. 3% in 2019; 15. 4% in 2018; 16. 7% in 2017 and 33. 3% in 2016. 
Interestingly, the home ministry appears to have hinted at an intent to review the sedition law (Section 124A) in 2021 itself. Then minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy had, in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on March 16 last year as to whether the government proposed to scrap the present provisions of IPC concerning sedition, said, “Amendment of criminal law is a continuous process. ”

NCRB data on the age profile of persons arrested for sedition shows that 290 or 53% of total 548 persons arrested between 2015 and 2020 belonged to the 18-30 years group, while nearly 35% were in the 30-45 years bracket.

Over the last three years for which NCRB has published crime statistics (20182020), Assam recorded the highest arrests for sedition with 23 each in 2018 and 2019 and 10 in 2020. The other states which showed most arrests under Section 124A of IPC were Andhra Pradesh (15), Madhya Pradesh (4) and Chhattisgarh (3) in 2018; Karnataka (18), Nagaland (11) and UP (9) in 2019; and UP (8), Nagaland (7) and Karnataka (6) in 2020. In 2020, Manipur had the most sedition cases (15), followed by Assam (12), Karnataka (8) and UP (7).

The home ministry is in the midst of a massive consultation exercise with all stakeholders ahead of a comprehensive review of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Evidence Act to weed out archaic provisions and make the laws relevant to the present times.


People charged with sedition, India Today , September 8,2016
People charged with sedition, India Today , September 8,2016

See the graphics 'People charged with sedition'

Damayanti Datta , A joke called sedition “India Today” 8/9/2016


All India

Bharti Jain, February 15, 2021: The Times of India

More freed than convicted of ‘offences against state’ in 4 years

New Delhi:

The number of people discharged and acquitted in cases relating to ‘offences against the state’ grew from 1,887 in 2016 to 3,237 in ’17, 3,490 in ’18 and 3,538 in ’19, data compiled by National Crime Records Bureau shows, reports Bharti Jain.

Convictions for such offences — they include cases under Sections 121-123 and 124A of IPC, Section 153B (imputation and assertion prejudicial to national integration), Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and Official Secrets Act — decreased from 2,269 in 2018 to 1,739 in 2019.

UP topped list on arrests for offences against state in 2016-19: NCRB data

More people were acquitted or discharged in cases relating to ‘offences against the state’, particularly under UAPA and sedition law, between 2016 and 2019. In addition, a large number of cases are in trial.

A senior IPS officer said this was on the pattern of overall crimes in the country, with acquittals outnumbering convictions.

A total 55,870 people were arrested under various categories of offences against the state over four years from 2016 to 2019, while 48,422 were chargesheeted. In the same period, only 6,511 people arrested for offences against the state were convicted, 11,828 were acquitted and 324 discharged by the courts.

The number of convictions or acquittals in a given year may relate to cases pending trial from earlier years. Alternatively, cases in which chargesheet was filed in a particular year may be at different stages of trial in subsequent years.

Incidentally, the number of people arrested for offences against the state declined to 12,140 in 2019 from 13,160 in 2018, though it was much higher at 16,210 in 2017. However, the number of people discharged and acquitted has grown steadily from 1,887 in 2016 to 3,237 in 2017, 3,490 in 2018 and 3,538 in 2019. The number of people convicted for offences against the state fell to 1,739 in 2019 from 2,269 in 2018, though it was lower at 1,734 in 2017 and 769 in 2016.

The state with the highest arrests for offences against the state between 2016 and 2019 was UP, though its rate of such offences was only 0.9 (as per population). Interestingly, states that showed a high rate were Manipur (10.1), Delhi (8.8), Arunachal (2.2), J&K (2.1), Haryana (2), and Tamil Nadu (1.7).

Till 2019 Jan: Assam

245 sedition cases since BJP came to power in Assam, February 5, 2019: The Times of India

The Assam government said as many as 245 sedition cases were registered across 17 districts since the BJP-led alliance came to power in the state in 2016.

In a written reply in the Assam assembly, parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said 245 sedition cases were filed against various individuals and banned organisations since May 26, 2016, when the present coalition government took charge. Excluding these two districts, the actual number of sedition cases filed in the state during this period stood at 245 in 17 districts. Replying to a query by the leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia of Congress, the minister said sedition cases have been filed against militant groups such as ULFA(I), NDFB (S), NDFB(B), KLO, NSLA, NSLA(AT), UPLFS, NSCN, DHD, DHNA, NSCN(IM), ZUF and ATF, among others.


Sedition cases in India, 2010-20
From: June 4, 2021: The Times of India

See graphic:

Sedition cases in India, 2010-20


Bharti Jain, Oct 23, 2019: The Times of India

As many as 160 cases of offences against the state were registered in 2017, of which 51 related to sedition and 109 to IPC provisions on waging war against the state.

As per the NCRB report regarding crime statistics for the year 2017, maximum sedition cases were registered in Assam (19), followed by Haryana (13), Himachal Pradesh (5), Odisha and Tamil Nadu (3 each).

As for offences dealing with waging war against the state registered under Section 121-123 of IPC, a maximum of 29 cases were registered in in Assam , followed by 27 in Meghalaya, 15 in Karnataka, 10 in J&K and 7 in Nagaland.

Not a single offence against the state was reported from any of the Union Territories, including Delhi.


Bharti Jain, Sep 16, 2021: The Times of India

As many as 5,613 cases relating to ‘offences against the State’, in which a total 7,607 persons were arrested, were registered across the country in 2020. This marks a sharp 26.7% fall from the 7,656 such offences recorded in 2019, in which a total 12,140 persons were arrested.

The head ‘offences against the State’ included in the NCRB annual report on ‘Crime in India’ covers cases registered under IPC Sections 121-123, 124A (sedition) and 153B (imputation and assertions prejudicial to national integration), Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Official Secrets Act and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

Of the 5,613 offences against the State reported nationwide in 2020, 4,524 were under Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 796 under UAPA, 99 under Section 121-123 of IPC, 82 under Section 153B of IPC, 73 under Section 124A of IPC, and 39 under Official Secrets Act.

Uttar Pradesh accounted for 39% of the all-India ‘offences against the State’. Also, 96% of the ‘offences against the State’ recorded by UP last year were under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

Among the other states that reported a significant number of ‘offences against the State’ were Tamil Nadu (668), Assam (333), J&K (317) and Delhi (18).

Of the 796 UAPA cases registered in the country in 2020, the maximum were in J&K (287), followed by Manipur (169), Jharkhand (86), Assam (76) and UP (72). Sedition cases were highest in Manipur (15) and Assam (12), followed by UP (7). Maharashtra topped the chart by recording almost one-fourth of the countrywide cases under OSA.

As many as 7,607 persons were arrested for ‘offences against the State’, 956 persons were convicted, 54 were discharged and 1,282 acquitted.

A total 6,009 persons were arrested under Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1,321 under UAPA (up from 1,226 in 2019), 44 for sedition and 52 under OSA. While 80 persons were convicted under UAPA, 116 were acquitted and eight discharged by the courts. Three persons were convicted for sedition and four acquitted. One person each was convicted and acquitted under OSA.

See also

Freedom of speech: India

Information Technology, India: I

Personal tools