According to Section 124-A (Sedition), 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 imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. (Explanation-1)
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. (Explanation-2)
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 under this Section. (Explanation-3)
Nature of offence under Section 124-A: Cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by Court of Session.
The essential ingredients of the Section are:
1. Bringing or attempting to bring into hatred or contempt, or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the Government of India.
2. Such act or attempt may be done,—
i) By words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or
ii) By visible representation.
Queen Empress vs. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (22 Bom. 112)
In this famous case, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the well known Freedom Fighter, was convicted and the conviction was affirmed on appeal by the Privy Council.
In Re. Amrita Bazar Patrika Press Ltd. (ILR 47 Cal. 1919)
In Amrita Bazar Patrika, two articles “To whom does India belong” and “Arrest of Mr. Gandhi – More Outrages” in its issues dated 10th and 12th April, 1919. The Government of Bengal ordered the forfeiture of the security of Rs. 5,000/- of the Patrika, as it thought those articles excited the disaffection towards the Government under Sec. 124-A.
The keeper of the Press appealed to the High Court for setting aside the order of forfeiture. The application was dismissed.
Article 19 (1) (a) Vs. Section 124-A:
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India provides Fundamental Right to all citizens the right to have freedom of speech and expression Section 124-A suppresses and punishes when a person whoever by words or by visible representation, etc., to excite disaffection towards the Government.
On simple perusal, it seems that the Article 19(1)(a) and Section 124-A are quite opposite to each other. There is no doubt that Article 19(1)(a) gives freedom of the speech and expression, which includes the freedom of press. In a democratic State, this fundamental right must be safeguarded.
However at the same time, the protection of the State is also an important matter in the interests of entire public throughout the country. Unfettered freedom spoils the country’s integrity. It degrades the social justice.
The fundamental rights and freedoms are such that every person shall have such rights and powers upto the extent that those will not injure the other people. One’s fundamental right extends upto the boundary of another person’s fundamental rights. Unrestricted rights and freedoms create chaos in the society and cause destruction.
Therefore, Article 19 (5) and (6) of the Constitution of India impose reasonable restrictions on the right to freedom. Article 19 (2) also has the provisions for the protection of the State, security of the State, sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency and morality.
Hence the provisions of Section 124-A are not unconstitutional as being violative of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
Ramesh Thappar vs. State of Madras (1950 SCR 594)
This is well known as “Thapper” case. In this case, the question raised by the Petitioner was that Sec. 124-A would be against the Fundamental Rights of the Freedom of Speech and Expression of the Constitution.
The Madras State had banned the entry into the State the Petitioner’s paper “Cross Roads” by an order, for the purpose of securing the public safety and the maintenance of public order.
The Petitioner contended before the Supreme Court that the said order contravened his Fundamental Right of the freedom of speech and expression conferred on him by Article 19 (1) of the Constitution and his “Cross Road” would not affect the “Security of the State”.
The Supreme Court held that CI. (2) of Art. 19 having allowed the Imposition of restrictions on the freedom of speech arid expression only in cases where danger to public security is involved, an enactment, which is capable of being applied to cases where no such danger could arise, cannot be held to be constitutional and valid to any extent.
Finally the Supreme Court allowed the application of the Petitioner under Art. 32 of the Constitution and quashed the Order of Madras State prohibiting the entry and circulation of the paper in the State of Madras.