The law of sedition has been in the news of late due to the incident in which few students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi have been booked under the provisions of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. 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.A detailed analysis of the existing case law is required to understand the issue in depth.
In Kedar Nath Singh’s Case, 5 judges of the Supreme Court – a Constitution bench – made it clear that allegedly seditious speech and expression may be punished only if the speech is an ‘incitement’ to ‘violence’, or ‘public disorder’. Subsequent cases have further clarified the meaning of this phrase.
In Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions for ‘sedition’, (124A, IPC) and ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc.’, (153A, IPC), and acquitted persons who had shouted – “Khalistan zindabaad, Raj Karega Khalsa,” and, “Hinduan Nun Punjab Chon Kadh Ke Chhadange, Hun Mauka Aya Hai Raj Kayam Karan Da”, late evening on 31 October 1984, i.e. a few hours after Indira Gandhi’s assassination – outside a cinema in a market frequented by Hindus and Sikhs in Chandigarh.
Sikhs For Human Rights (SFHR) held a discussion at Kisan Bhawan, Chandigarh on February 22, 2016 on this topic of “Rise of Fascism in India”. The following video clip is part of the views shared by Advocate Navkiran Singh during this discussion.