In this guest post, SARIM NAVED gives a chronological account of sedition in Indian law, and discusses the procedural aspects laid down for a magistrate to take cognisance of sedition
After the 1857 revolt, the Press Act of 1857 which prohibited all publications, without licensing, was passed. This Act known as Lord Canning’s Act applied to all kinds of publication, including books in all languages and other printed papers in all languages. 1860 saw the enactment of the Indian Penal Code, which remains in force today in a relatively unchanged manner. The Indian Penal Code, while not directly dealing with the press, does incorporate provisions that impinge upon and regulate the activities of the press. The code dealt with issues ranging from offences against a person’s body or property to criminal breach of trust to offences like defamation and obscenity that directly concerned editors. In the words of Rajeev Dhavan, “It was a comprehensive code. Not all these provisions were directed against free speech but virtually all could be used against it.” Amendments were later introduced to bring in the offence of sedition in 1870, the offence of promoting enmity between classes in 1898, the offence of outraging religious feelings in 1928 and imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration, which were added by the government of independent India in 1972. Continue reading On sedition: Sarim Naved
Part 2 of a 3 part series by SIDDHARTH NARRAIN. First published on The Hoot
|While in their Draft Constitution, the Constitutional Framers included ‘sedition’ and the term ‘public order’ as a basis on which laws could be framed limiting the fundamental right to speech (Article 13), in the final draft of the Constitution though, both ‘public order’ and sedition were eliminated from the exceptions to the right to freedom of speech and expression (Article 19 (2)).Commenting on this omission many years later, Justice Fazl Ali said:
The framers of the Constitution must have therefore found themselves face to face with the dilemma as to whether the word “sedition” should be used in article 19(2) and if it was to be used in what sense it was to be used. On the one hand, they must have had before their mind the very widely accepted view supported by numerous authorities that sedition was essentially an offence against public tranquillity and was connected in some way or other with public disorder; and, on the other hand, there was the pronouncement of the Judicial Committee that sedition as defined in the Indian Penal Code did not necessarily imply any intention or tendency to incite disorder.
Continue reading How Sedition crept into the constitution: Siddharth Narrain
I am afraid that unlike in Sholay, where the reply to Gabbar’s question and in our time, the reply to Nivedita’s question would have to be more than ‘Do sarkar’. But regardless of the rather large numbers, given the extreme nervousness which prompts a law like sedition, hopefully, they will still return to the sarkar, khaali haath.
As a part of the We Are All Seditious series, I am posting three guest posts written by SIDDHARTH NARRAIN which provides us with an overview of the history and the politics of sedition law in India.
These posts have been hosted by The Hoot, a highly recommended site for keeping track of the media in India. The first in the series looks at three major trials, Gandhi’s trial and those of Tilak and Shiekh Abdullah. Continue reading We are all seditious now, but when did this start?
Here is a very short, utterly incomplete, hastily compiled list of people charged under Section 124 A in the last two years alone.
Our very own Shuddhabrata Sengupta figures in this roll of honour.
(Incidentally, KK Shahina, who has guest posted with us, faces charges from the Karnataka Police under IPC 506 for intimidating witnesses. Her expose in Tehelka showed how the police case against Abdul Nasar Madani, head of the People’s Democratic Front (PDP), accused in 2008 Bengaluru blasts, was fragile and based on non-existent and false testimonies.)
There would be hundreds more, not named here, charged with sedition for “criticizing” the government, for exposing corruption and police nexus with mafias, or for expressing views that run counter to official wisdom on the “integrity” of India.
As if “integrity” is something pre-existing and eternal rather than something that has to be produced at every point. The existence of a nation is a daily plebiscite, said even historian Ernst Renan, a staunch supporter of the nation form. Not so Rabindranath Tagore, who was highly suspicious of the “fetish of nationalism”. He called the Nation nothing but the “the organization of politics and commerce” and warned that when this Nation “becomes all-powerful at the cost of the harmony of the higher social life, then it is an evil day for humanity.” (In his lectures on nationalism, published by Rupa and Co. 1994) Continue reading Kitne aadmi the? We are all seditious now
(Shuddhabrata Sengupta has written eloquently his account of the day-long seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way’. The seminar was organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. Given below are CRPP’s minutes of the seminar. You can also see, on YouTube, two short videos showing the ruckus that some Kashmiri Pandits created before Syed Ali Shah Geelani was to speak (1, 2). Also on YouTube, in two parts (1, 2), is Arundhati Roy’s speech, for which some want her booked for sedition. Those on Facebook can also see most of SAS Geelani’s speech (1, 2, 3). A small part of Geelani’s speech is on Youtube, here. Those hurling abuses at Roy and Geelani would do well to read this text, see these videos, and engage with these ideas intellectually, instead of asking for individuals to be jailed and persecuted.)
Continue reading Minutes of the seminar on ‘Azadi: The Only Way’
Despite the many thoughtful critiques of the relationship between family and the state, I have always found it a little surprising that there is very little commentary on the relationship between two strange legal fictions. The first is the idea of the restitution of conjugal rights (RCR), and the other is sedition. The restitution of conjugal rights basically consists of the right of a spouse to demand that his or her- though more often his than her- spouse cohabit with him after she has ‘withdrawn from his society’. Away from the misty world of legal euphemisms, we all know what this means: that you can be forced to sleep with a somewhat less than pleasant person against your wishes. A legal commitment to love in a marriage is a serious thing indeed which only warns us that we must proceed with such a choice very carefully.
But like many marriages, the question of choice is somewhat restricted for many people- as is indeed the case of the choice of loving your country. After all isn’t sedition a crime of passion, and the punishment of an offence of the withdrawal of love for your nation. It is interesting to see that while treason in Sec. 121 of the IPC is about the waging of war against the state, sedition is about a forced love. It is about the creation of ‘disaffection’. As Nivedita Menon points out in her post, disaffection means “the absence or alienation of affection or goodwill; estrangement”.
A legal commitment to love your nation is also a serious thing indeed, and what then is the punishment of sedition if not, the restitution of the conjugal rights of the state?