We will reconsider sedition law: Centre
GS Paper- 2, Issues arising out of Design and Implementation of Policies, Govt Policies and Interventions, Fundamental Rights, Indian Constitution.


  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Supreme Court on Monday of its decision to “re-examine” and “reconsider” the sedition law in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s belief that the country should work harder to shed “colonial baggage,” including outdated laws, while celebrating 75 years of independence under the banner of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.’
  • The previous government memorandum encouraged the court to recognise its 1962 ruling on sedition legislation as “binding precedent.” Instead of repealing the sedition statute outright, the Centre recommended a case-by-case evaluation of its misuse.

What is sedition law?

Sedition was defined in 1837 by British historian-politician Thomas Babington Macaulay as “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.”

  • The British Colonial administration established the Sedition charge, which was inserted under Section 124 A of the Indian penal code in 1870, principally to restrict the writings and speeches of renowned Indian independence fighters.
  • Writings by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, and Jogendra Chandra Bose were banned, and they were prosecuted under sedition legislation for their criticisms of British administration.

According to Section 124A, sedition is a non-bailable offence punished by imprisonment ranging from three years to life in jail, as well as a fine. The individual accused under this statute is also forbidden from holding a government post, and the government seizes their passport. In addition, the United Kingdom removed the sedition charge in 2010.

Supreme Court’s opinion on the matter:

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana stated in July 2021, “Sedition is a colonial law.” It restricts liberty. Tilak used it against Mahatma Gandhi.
  • However, the Supreme Court confirmed the legality of section 124A of the IPC in the Kedar Nath case in 1962.
  • According to the 1962 directive, “the continued existence of the Government established by law is an important element of the State’s stability.”

Cases of sedition in the nation:

  • According to the 2020 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, 70 sedition complaints were filed in 2018, but no one was convicted. Similarly, 93 cases were brought in 2019, but just two were convicted. Similarly, 73 cases were brought in 2020, but no one was convicted of sedition.
  • In 2020, Manipur filed the most sedition cases (15), followed by Assam (12), Karnataka (9), Uttar Pradesh (7), Haryana (6), and Delhi (5).

Issues and Developments:

  • According to the Kedar Nath verdict in 1962, the sedition statute was meant to be used only in extreme cases when the country’s security and sovereignty were threatened.
  • According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, sedition charges increased 163 percent from 47 in 2014 to 93 in 2019. However, the conversion rate from cases to convictions is only 3%. This demonstrates that the police and other state officials are arbitrarily using sedition laws to instil fear among residents and muzzle any criticism or opposition against the dictatorship.
  • Misuse for propaganda: Those who cite this provision argue it as a necessary step to avoid public disturbance and anti-national activity.
  • Faulty Cases: Many of them have also been held under the National Security Act and the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.

Fundamental Rights:

  • According to Article 19(1), freedom of speech and expression is a basic right.
  • Without liberty, democracy has no meaning, and sedition as defined and implemented by police and governments is a denial of it.
  • As a result, before the legislation loses its force, the Supreme Court, as the guardian of people’ basic rights, must intervene and examine the law.
  • The freedom of speech and expression is the hallmark of a democracy, and it is under threat as a result of the sedition statute. Citizens in a democracy must actively participate in discussions and offer constructive criticism of government policy.
  • Personal liberty and the right to free expression are characteristics of liberal democracy, and sedition laws and their severe abuse strike at the heart of these values established in the Indian Constitution.


Reasonable Limitations:

  • The Indian constitution sets appropriate constraints (under Article 19(2)) that can always be imposed on this right (Freedom of Speech and Expression) in order to ensure its responsible exercise and equitable availability to all people.

Upholding Unity and Integrity:

  • Sedition legislation aids the government in its fight against anti-national, separatist, and terrorist groups.

Maintaining State Stability:

  • It aids in the protection of the elected government from efforts to topple it by violent and unlawful methods. The ongoing existence of the legally created government is a necessary prerequisite for the State’s stability.

Way Ahead:

  • Inform law enforcement agencies.
  • As a result, the term “sedition” is exceedingly subtle and should be used with caution.
  • All speech-related offences should be made bailable; this would mitigate the negative impact of utilising arrest and detention to harass anybody exercising their rights under Article 19(1). (a). The stifling impact on freedom of expression must be removed.
  • Raising awareness.
  • Creating a committee comprised of government and prominent civil society representatives to hear complaints under Section 124 A.
  • To limit discretionary authority as much as possible by more thorough development of guidelines.
  • The offences should be rendered non-cognizable so that the police may be held accountable if they act on politically influenced allegations.
  • In the case of offences under Sections 153A (“promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony”) and 295A of the Indian Penal Code, Section 196(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires obtaining prior sanction of the government before taking cognizance of the offences. This should be extended to the Section 124A charge of sedition.
  • In the instance of hate speech, it is critical to place the burden of evidence on people who claim their feelings have been wounded rather than accepting them at face value.
  • Finally, courts must begin to take action against people who file malicious complaints against free speech actions.


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