This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ashraf Nehal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Sedition: Understanding The Controversial Law In India

More from Ashraf Nehal

It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one“.

For decades, we have known “Punishment is justice for the unjust” but does this justice get delivered justly? Well, this is a question of great intensity. In India, a strict punishment system has been in practice since the historical ages and across diverse cultures. IPC (Indian Penal Code) was drafted in the 1860s but certain advances in it were just included to accommodate oppression and to date wears the same characteristics, Sedition is one such law under IPC.

What Is Sedition?

Section 124(A) of IPC popularly known as Sedition Law states: “Whoever by words Spoken/Written is creating – 1)hatred 2) contempt 3)dissatisfaction against Government established by law shall be punishable”. Hence Sedition lies discrete and clear about its effect, then why is it seen from the vision of Controversy? Post-February 9th 2016, Sedition had made its way into the mainstream gossip of every Indian class but the consequential question that remains attached to it – is how efficiently did the Indian class really grip the understanding of Sedition?

Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest for sedition brought about many questions and debates around the law.

To add a little complexity to it, if Sedition can be justified over Kanhaiya Kumar on the grounds of some videos (alleged to be doctored) then why the same sedition is unable to contain certain elements on the same ground as Kanhaiya, clearly calling for violence in videos. Considering the historical context of Sedition, we see that throughout the British Raj, this section was used to suppress activists in favour of national independence, including Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, both of whom were found guilty and imprisoned. The section kept drawing criticism even in independent India as well for being a hindrance to the right to free speech.

In fact, Sedition became a part of IPC a decade after it was drafted, around the time when the Wahabi Movement was at its peak and if we consider the arguments of critics then, ‘The British government feared that Muslim preachers on the Indian subcontinent would wage a war against the government. Particularly after the successful suppression of the Wahabi Movement and so the need was felt for such a law“.

So in contemporary India, is Sedition a challenge to its democratic nature, and can Sedition be justified with the same set of Politicization as done with the Nationalist Indians during the British Raj?

The picture of Sedition in India before Kanhaiya Kumar was different. During the drafting of the Constitution, Sedition was added by the Fundamental Rights Committee in the supervision of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel but was hugely criticized in the Parliament when included in the draft constitution. One such critical comment is, “Previously there was fear from the British Government, Now do we need to fear from the government of the nation established by law and elected by  People”.

According to Article 13 – if any Law is in agreement with Part 3(Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution it is valid but if it violated Fundamental Rights, it’s unconstitutional. So where did the controversy of Sedition set in?

The Free Speech Argument

As we are aware that the Constitution ensures Freedom of Speech and Expression under {19 (1)(a)} but what is rare to the knowledge of many is that, ‘it is not absolute’ and that’s why this right cannot be justified for cases like that of Sharjeel Imam. There are restrictions to this Right. Clause (2) of Article 19 enables the legislature to impose certain restrictions on free speech under certain grounds. In the simplest of language Sedition is, ‘the check on the Freedom of Speech‘ and this check has always been imposed from the beneficial point of politics, be it any party at-rule.

The accuracy of this claim can be figured out with the fact of the low conviction rate of the accused.

According to NCRB data between 2016 and 2018, 332 people were arrested under the Sedition Provision but only four were convicted. So more than a national threat it has been used as a political threat and that’s what makes it controversial. To understand the politicization of Sedition in the hands of power, let’s examine the difference in approach of the Delhi Government under Arvind Kejriwal – who once criticized the Central Government for slapping Sedition on Kanhaiya and appreciated his release from jail but after a span of four years, the same Kejriwal Government granted permission to prosecute Kanhaiya on the same grounds.

The accommodation of Freedom of Speech and Expression and Sedition in the same Constitution isn’t a problem that arose only after 2016 but a deep clearance on the same has been met earlier too. In the Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962), the Supreme Court mentioned that Sedition law under IPC has to be narrowed down in the interpretation as we can’t have Sedition law and Freedom of Speech and Expression in the same bread and will give precedence to Freedom of Speech and Expression.

So the punishment ground for Sedition was decided upon only when there’s a clear instinct of inciting people to violence, which violates Public Order.

Political Threats Vs National Threats

Hence it became clear that you can say whatever but not incite violence, asking people to raise arms or overthrow the government in power.

In the landmark case of Shreya Singhal vs Union of India, the Supreme Court mentioned that- Speech can a) Advocate b) Propagate but not Incite because slogan and public speech is basic to democracy and have been thoroughly used in the Freedom Struggle, so how could the same dissent be jeopardized today when staged against the contemporary ills of India.

Hence, slogans no matter how impartible or cringe-worthy cannot be booked under Sedition but even a slight instinct of incitement is to be severely punished. Freedom of Speech and Expression, ‘Is a right to give every man his due‘ and shouldn’t be confined.

The arrest of Disha Ravi highlights how BJP uses sedition to stifle dissent.

However, the developments after nationwide protests against CAA and farm laws have again landed Sedition in controversy. School children were booked for a play against CAA and were arrested under Sedition in Karnataka, RTI activist Akhil Gogoi and writer Hiren Gohain were booked under Sedition for protesting against CAA in Assam and the innumerable arrests from politician Ishrat Jahan to environmental activist Disha Ravi does question the implication of Sedition today and how is it being used as a weapon against the critics of Government.

The Constitutional validity of Sedition is intact so it has to be narrowed down. The judiciary has another set of challenges to implementing Sedition Law as “the best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly” and in establishing so it’s bound that no convict should be punished without being proved guilty.

You must be to comment.

More from Ashraf Nehal

Similar Posts

By Aryaan Khan

By herrypitter

By virovalorxl2022

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below