Está en la página 1de 11

Sedition: Laws across the world.

Introduction:
Sedition can be defined as the crime of saying, writing, or doing something that
encourages people to disobey their government. There were many laws which came
into existence with regard to this act across the world. In the olden days the act
against the empire would have resulted in Capital punishment or some other severe
punishment. Because of these actions there was revolutions around the globe which
introduced us to a new world, because of which there were innovations, new leaders
came to power. Sedition is a double edged sword which can be dangerous if not used
properly. Here in this research paper we will deal with the following three issues,
i)
Whether laws regarding Sedition in India is Valid.
ii)
Treatment of Sedition in other Countries.
iii)
Whether the present law in India should be amended.
1. Whether laws regarding Sedition in India is valid.
According to the section 124A of the Indian Penal Code1 Sedition is considered to be
a crime and is punishable. The punishment maybe lifetime imprisonment which may
also include fine. Sedition includes disloyalty and all feelings on enmity, Comments
expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain
their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred,
contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the
Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection,
do not constitute an offence.
Seditious intention further defines the physical element of the offences, rather than
referring to the mental or fault element required. Thus it can be seen that the

1 Indian penal code,1860

elements of sedition offences are ill-defined. In Boucher v The Queen, Kellock J


2

state that probably no crime has been left in such vagueness of definition.
Historically, the law of sedition was used to punish a wide range of behaviourfrom satirical comment or mere criticism of authority to the incitement of violent
uprising. The scope and application of the law has fluctuated significantly over
time3..
Further if we take a look at the cases regarding the act of Sedition in India we can
come to know about the execution of the law and the acts which are considered to
be Seditious in nature.
One of the most controversial case considered is the case of,
Aseem Trivedi Case.
Aseem Trivedi is an Indian political cartoonist and activist, he was dragged into
limelight by the controversy of Anti-corruption campaign. He is a founder
member of save your voice, a movement which was initiated against censorship
in India.
In 2011, a nationwide anti-corruption movement also known as India against
corruption gathered pace in the leadership of a Gandhian Anna Hazare
demanding Jan Lokpal Bill. Aseem Trivedi joined the motion and started his
movement with art (cartoon based campaign) where cartoons were made to gather
followers for the movement and also to lead the movement further.
He launched a website as www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.com which consisted of
anti-corruption which basically gathered the cartoons targeting the corrupt system
and the political issues of the State.
He set up display of his cartoons in MMDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region
Development Authority) ground. This was during the hunger strike of Anna
Hazare in Mumbai.
On 27th of December 2011, Aseem Trivedi received a mail regarding ban on his
website as there was a complaint which was filed by R.P. Pandey who is an
2 Boucher v The King [1951] 2 DLR 369, 382.
3 See Ibid per Kellock J, 382

advocate and a congress leader. The complaint was filed as the website contained
defamatory and derogatory pictures and texts related Flag and Emblem of the
Nation. The complaint requested strict legal action in the matter. Furthermore
Trivedi uploaded all the cartoon to a new blog he quickly created.
His actions took no time to provoke Rashtriya Janata Dal lawmaker, Ram Kripal
Yadav who initiated a discussion in the Parliament.
One of his cartoons depicted Indian Parliament building as a toilet and the other
one which redraws the Indias National Emblem as three bloodthirsty wolves
underscored with the motto Bhrashtamev Jayate yet another features mother
India wearing a Tri-colour sari who is about to be raped by a character labelled as
Corruption this was titled as Gang Rape of Mother India
He faced serious allegations of insulting national emblem, parliament, flag and the
Indian Constitution through his anti-corruption cartons. In January 2012, a case of
Sedition was filed against him (Section 124 A of the IPC)
The Bombay High Court stated that Sedition will be only applicable when there is
a clear and present danger of violence or threat to public order. Upholding a
petition challenging the charge of Sedition against Aseem Trivedi, a bench
consisting of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N M Jamdar of the Bombay
High Court reiterated that the charge of Sedition under Sec 124 A of the IPC aims
at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency,
to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence.
Also by looking at the other similar cases it can be concluded that the laws
regarding Sedition in India is valid.
2. Treatment of Sedition in other Countries.
Now lets look at how other countries treat Sedition, In this section we will be dealing
with 3 Countries they are,
a) United Kingdom:
Sedition law was a colonial law which was intended to supress the actions
regarding freedom in India, but later in 2009 UK abolished the Sedition as a

criminal offence as it was a relic of the era where the freedom of speech was not
that much of a right as it is considered now.
Sedition was abolished under the Coroners and Justice Act, 2009 under Gordon
Browns Labour government. Then the Parliamentary undersecretary of State at
the Ministry of Justice, Claire Ward, said that the of the acts enactment Sedition
and Seditious and defamatory libel are arcane offences from a bygone era when
freedom of speech was not seen as the right is today.
Further he added that Freedom of speech is now seen as the touchstone of
democracy, and the ability of individuals to criticise the state is crucial to
maintaining freedom.
One of the Britains Law Commission had recommended the abolition of the law of
sedition in 1977. According to Claire, The existence of these obsolete offences in this
country had been used by other countries as justification for the retention of similar
laws which have been actively used to suppress political dissent and restrict press
freedom. Further Abolishing these offences will allow the UK to take a lead in
challenging similar laws in other countries, where they are used to suppress free
speech.
The Sedition and criminal libel evolved from some of Britains oldest laws, such as
the Statue of Westminster 1275, when the divine right of the king and the principles of
a feudal society were not questioned. According to the writers the seditious libel was
established by the Star Chamber case De Libellis Famosis of 1606. But the Sententia
Legis of the act is still left unknown. Punishments for the crime included
imprisonment and the loss of the offenders ears.
Criminal libel and Seditious libel laws were used extensively in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, most famously against the renegade MP and Civil rights
campaigner John Wilkes, whose publication, North Briton, was declared a Seditious
libel and was publicly burned.

Sedition is not considered as a criminal offence in UK after the abolition in 2009, this
step was taken in order to grant the full rights of Freedom of speech.

b) Australia
Australian Sedition law is the area of criminal law of Australia relating to the
crime of Sedition.
Effectively defunct for nearly half a century, these laws returned to public notice
in 2005 when changer were included in an Anti-terrorism bill announce by Prime
Minister Howard priori to a counter-terrorism summit of the council of Australian
Governments on 27th September.
The bill was introduced on 3rd November and passed into law on 6 December
2005 after government amendments adding some protection for the reporting
news and matters of public interest were introduced in response to community
pressure. The changed laws are to review from 2006.
The previous laws defines seditious intention under section 24 as (a)n intention to
effect any of the following purposes,
(a) To bring the Sovereign into hatred or contempt;
(d) To excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the
Commonwealth or against either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth;
(f) to excite Her Majesty's subjects to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise
than by lawful means, of any matter in the Commonwealth established by law of
the Commonwealth; or
(g) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of Her
Majesty's subjects so as to endanger the peace, order or good government of the
Commonwealth;
Whereas the new amended law defines Seditious intent as stated below,

An intention to effect any of the following purposes:


(a) To bring the Sovereign into hatred or contempt;
(b) To urge disaffection against the following:
(i) The Constitution;
(ii) The Government of the Commonwealth;
(iii) Either House of the Parliament;
(c) To urge another person to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, to procure a
change to any matter established by law in the Commonwealth;
(d) To promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different groups so as to
threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.4
Hence forth there have been many changes in the Sedition laws of Australia as they
have amended the Seditious intent definition and also how these acts are treated in a
court of law.
c) United States of America.
U.S. Code 2384 defines and treats Sedition conspiracy as If two or more persons in any
State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to
overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy
war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder,
or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess
any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined
under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_sedition_law#Current_Law

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; July 24, 1956, ch. 678, 1, 70 Stat. 623; Pub. L. 103
322, title XXXIII, 330016 (1) (N), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)5
As men in USA who were both treasonous and seditious against England, the founder also
made certain that no one in America will ever be allowed to do what the founders themselves
had done that is to throw off a tyrannical, oppressive and murderous government. Further
there are many controversies in USA regarding the laws of Sedition, whether they restrict
peoples right to Freedom of speech or it is to be considered as an act against the State and
punish them accordingly.
Many opinions have been raised supporting and opposing this issue but the government does
not seem to come to a conclusion yet. The opinions of the people were uniform before the
terrorist attacks in the country but after facing them the people started to raise their opinions
against the State. The government has not considered this as an act of Sedition as there has
not been any disapprobation with regard to the government or any hatred, animosity shown
towards the country by the people. It is just some of them have different opinions about the
state but none of them has been put forward to a motion yet.
Sedition act of 1978,
Just after the First amendment was added to the constitution, the federal government passed a
law restriction freedom of speech. In 1798, Congress passed the Sedition act. War seemed
likely between the United States and its former ally France. Members of Congress were
convinced that people were sympathetic towards France would try to stir up trouble for new
nation.
Congress and President John Adams believed that the Sedition Act would help control proFrench troublemakers by forbidding criticism of the federal government. Sedition generally
5 https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2384

means the incitement of violent revolution against the government. The Sedition Act of 1798,
however, went far beyond this. It required criminal penalties for persons who said or
published anything false, scandalous, or malicious against the federal government,
Congress or the president.
Twenty-five American citizens were arrested under the Sedition Act. Among them was a
Congressman who was convicted and imprisoned for calling President Adams a man who had
a continual grasp for power. Another citizen was convicted for painting a sign that read,
Downfall to the Tyrants of America. Still another man was found guilty of sedition for
saying that he wished that the wadding of a cannon fired in a salute to President Adams
would hit him in the seat of the pants.
Despite the arrests and convictions, many people spoke out against the Sedition Act. The state
of Virginia even threatened to secede from the United States over this issue. The act was
never legally challenged before the Supreme Court. Instead, it simply expired in 1801. By
that time Thomas Jefferson, a bitter political opponent of President Adams and the Sedition
Act, had been elected President. He pardoned all those convicted under this law.
This is how the Sedition law came into existence in United States of America.
3) Whether the present law in India should be amended.
Seditious intention further defines the physical element of the offences, rather than
referring to the mental or fault element required. Thus it can be seen that the elements
of sedition offences are ill-defined. In Boucher v The Queen, Kellock J 6state that
probably no crime has been left in such vagueness of definition.

6 Boucher v The King [1951] 2 DLR 369, 382.

Historically, the law of sedition was used to punish a wide range of behaviour- from
satirical comment or mere criticism of authority to the incitement of violent uprising.
The scope and application of the law has fluctuated significantly over time7..
Further if we take a look at the cases regarding the act of Sedition in India we can
come to know about the execution of the law and the acts which are considered to be
Seditious in nature.
It is important to note that under the Indian law of Sedition, the events at the public
meeting, even if completely true, do not even come close to establishing an offence.
In Kedar Nath Singhs Case, 5 judges of the Supreme Court a constitution benchmade 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
clarified the meaning of this.
It is well knows that the Sedition laws comes under the Indian Penal Code, which was
not actually drafted by the Indian legislature but was just borrowed from the Britains
laws. Since this was drafted in the perspective of the Colonial Era and the period has
changed since then, there are many changes thus still having the same old laws creates
a lot of confusions in the present days.
The Judiciary has to understand and define most of the issues which are still unclear
in our constitution, this might lead to misuse of the law and confusion among the
people of the Country.
Hence there has to a clear explanation regarding the acts which are to be considered
as an act of Sedition and also the punishment to such must be severe as this creates a
psychological fear among the people to do such heinous crimes. Furthermore the laws
of Sedition always creates a controversy with the Freedom of Speech as even the
hatred speech is also considered as the right to Freedom speech and expression. To
stop this havoc between people the clause dealing with the Freedom of speech and

7 See Ibid per Kellock J, 382

expression has to detail and also the limitations had to mention in order to stop this
confusion amongst people and also to stop people from misusing the law of the State.
Conclusion:
Yes, there is a need for amendment in the present Indian laws which deals with
Sedition. As stated above in the issues the existing laws are from Colonial period and
using the same law these days makes it non convenient and creates more confusion
among people. Hence there has to be an amendment with regard to the present
Sedition law and also the limitations of the right to Freedom of Speech has to be
explained and the limitations has to be mentioned.
By doing this the confusion in the State can be reduced with regard to the laws and
their implications.

A Research Paper By,


Sreenidhi S Sreevatsa
IFIM Law College, Banglore.