New Delhi, Feb 16: Sedition is a serious charge and probing such cases is never easy. Sedition 124 A of the Indian Penal Code deals with Sedition and while there have been demands in the past to scrap this section, it has remained.
While this charge is very serious in nature and can invite a life imprisonment, the conviction rate is extremely poor.
Let us first see what exactly Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code has to say. 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 shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years.
The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. 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.
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.
What constitutes sedition?
With the Delhi Police slapping charges of sedition in connection with the JNU case in which students were allegedly shouting anti India slogans, it is very clear that the investigators have their task cut out. Former officer with the Research and Analysis Wing, Amar Bhushan tells OneIndia that sedition charges are normally slapped as a deterrent, but it is very difficult to take it to a logical conclusion.
He further adds that it is a very elongated process of investigation and this takes the toll on the person against whom sedition charges are slapped.
In the Kedar Nath Singh case, a five judge Bench of the Supreme Court stated that allegedly seditious speech and expression may be punished only if the speech is an ‘incitement' to ‘violence', or ‘public disorder.
In the Indra Das vs State of Assam case the Supreme Court stated that only speech that amounts to "incitement to imminent lawless action" can be criminalised.
In the Balwant Singh vs State Punjab case, the Supreme Court set aside the convictions for ‘sedition and ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc. In this case it was found that the accused persons had shouted Khalistan Zindabad slogans after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
In brief what the Supreme Court has tried to indicate is that sedition charges will stand only when it is used incite mobs which lead to a violent action.
Just shouting out words no matter what it is does amount to sedition unless and until there is a incident leading up to incitement of violence. The Delhi police will have to prove in this case that the sloganeering by the students had in fact led to incitement of violence by a mob.