In the wake of the JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar being arrested on charges of Sedition, on February 13 (following the protests in the JNU campus against the "judicial killing" of the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru), it is important to understand what the law is about.
Section 124-A of the IPC explains sedition in a wide way. It states," '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 life imprisonment.'
Explaining it further, the law states that the expression of disaffection includes disloyalty and all feelings of hate.
This also includes 'disapproval of the measures of the Government, with a view to obtain their desired modifications by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offense under this section.'
As per section 124-A comments that express strong disapproval of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offense under this section.'
The law was originally drafted by Thomas MacCaulay who was an 18th century essayist and reviewer. Interestingly, many freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi were charged with sedition during the struggle for freedom.
The first amendment
When the first amendment was introduced, which details free speech and its limitation, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said that in his belief, the offence of sedition was fundamentally inconstitutional.
He had said,"'now so far as I am concerned [Section 124-A] is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons. The sooner we get rid of it the better.'
Recently, JNU student and JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar has been arrested on charges of sedition.