Compilation of Resources on Sedition Law
Given that there is considerable debate on sedition right now, and how woefully off some of the reporting and comments on the ongoing JNU case has been, thought it may be useful to compile a set of existing resources to help anyone writing or commenting on the issue.
This is a compilation of resources on various facets of sedition law in India. I have provided a link with a very short summary of what the article/monographs say, and they contain very detailed historical and legal overviews, highly recommended for anyone writing on sedition and looking for material.
1. National Law School of India University and Alternative Law Forum Report, SEDITION LAWS & THE DEATH OF FREE SPEECH IN INDIA
When the Supreme Court specifically laid down that the provisions of section 124A are only made out where there is a tendency to public disorder by use of violence or incitement to violence, for the other interpretation (earlier afforded by the Privy Council) would conflict with the fundamental right under Art 19(1)(a),31 how is it that so many cases and FIRs continue to be registered against media persons and others for their speeches and writings?
The truth remains that while the SC has stayed firm in its opinion on sedition from Kedar Nath onwards,the lower courts seem to continuously disregard this interpretation of the law, most recently seen in the verdict against Dr Binayak Sen. The law on sedition is being used to stem any sort of political dissent in the country, and also any alternate political philosophy which goes against the ruling party’s mindset. It is a throwback to the days of British Rule, when the speeches of Tilak and Gandhi used to warrant persecution for they spoke out against the British Rule, but one asks in a country providing a fundamental right to freedom of speech, is such criticism not a right of the individual, so long as it remains within reasonable restrictions?
2. Gautam Bhatia, Extracts from Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution discussing the history of the judicial interpretation of sedition law in India
Extracts from the book on sedition available here
Gautam Bhatia discusses Kedar Nath Singh’s case in which the court examined the constitutional validity of Sec. 124A of the IPC.
He comes to the conclusion that Kedar Nath Singh expressly links Section 124A with Article 19(2)’s public order test. In other words, Section 124A is constitutional only because and insofar as it fits within the meaning of Article 19(2)
He adds that cases such as Rangarajan and Arup Bhuyan have narrowed the standard, gradually approaching something akin to the test that exists int he US namely the Brandenburg test (‘incitement to imminent lawless action’).
He concludes therefore that
1. Either Section 124A itself must be interpreted to embody a Brandenburg level of
2. Alternatively, if Section 124A is still under- stood as embodying Gwyer’s formulation of ‘intention’ or ‘tendency’ to public disorder, then it is at least now unconstitutional and violates 19(1)(a) and 19(2), even though it might not have been in 1957
Gautam Bhatia, Free Speech and the law on sedition
For a historical background
3. Siddharth Narrain, We are all seditious now, but when did this start?
We are all seditious now, but when did this start?
Siddharth Narrain, Disaffection and the law: The chilling effects of sedition laws in India, EPW, February 19, 2011
4. Sarim Naved, On sedition
5. Nivedita Menon,Sedition: the highest duty of a citizen?
On Procedural Aspects
6. Lawrence Liang, The process is the bloody punishment
The process is the bloody punishment
and finally on a lighter vein, for an ironic comment
7. Lawrence Liang, The Restitution of the Conjugal Rights of the State
The Restitution of the Conjugal Rights of the State