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Explained: What were Gandhi’s, Nehru’s and Tilak’s views on sedition law

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Gandhi refused to plead innocent to the charge of spreading disaffection (sedition)

New Delhi, May 13: Earlier this week, the Supreme Court paused the sedition law and stayed all pending trials, appeals and proceedings relating to Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with sedition.

Explained: What were Gandhi’s, Nehru’s and Tilak’s views on sedition law

The stay was granted while hearing petitions challenging the British era law which was used against several leaders of India's freedom struggle. During the arguments, senior advocate, Kapil Sibal quoted statements of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru on the sedition law and said that they wanted the provision struck down.

Mahatma Gandhi:

After Mahatma Gandhi wrote three articles in his weekly Young India, he was charged with sedition. The proprietor of the newspaper, Shankerlal Banker was also charged under Section 124A of the IPC.
Gandhi refused to plead innocent to the charge of spreading disaffection (sedition) He said that it was his moral duty to disobey unjust laws.

"Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But the section under which Mr Banker and I are charged is one under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it (Section 124A) and I know that some of the most loved of India's patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section," Gandhi had said.

Sedition has become the creed of the Congress. Every non-co-operator is pledged to preach disaffection towards the Government established by law. Non- cooperation, though a religious and strictly moral movement, deliberately aims at the overthrow of the Government, and is therefore legally seditious in terms of the Indian Penal Code," Gandhi had written in his article,, 'Tampering with Loyalty."

Jawaharlal Nehru:

In 1930, Nehru was charged with sedition. He too did not plead guilty. He told the magistrate, " "There can be no compromise between freedom and slavery, and between truth and falsehood. We realised that the price of freedom is blood and suffering the blood of our own countrymen and the suffering of the noblest in the land and that price we shall pay in full measure."

This was also quoted in the book The Great Repression: The Story of Sedition in India written by Chtiranshul Sinha.

Nehru had said during the debate on the First Amendment that imposed reasonable restrictions on the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(A), " take again Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. Now so far as I am concerned that particular section is highly objectionable and obnoxious and it should have no place both for practical and historical reasons, if you like, in any body of laws that we might pass. The sooner we get rid of it the better."

Lokmanya Tilak:

Lokmanya Bay Gangadhar Tilak was tried thrice under the sedition law and was imprisoned twice. In 1897, he was charged with sedition for "exciting and attempting to excite feelings of disaffection to Government by the publication of certain article, in the Kesari in its issue of the 15th June 1897". Keshri was a newspaper run by Tilak.

In 1908 two teenage revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki accidentally killed two European women in a bomb attack in Muzaffarpur while targeting the British magistrate Douglas Kingsford. While Chaki shot himself before he was arrested, Bose was arrested and hanged. Tilak published a strong defence of the two and was immediately arrested.

In July 1908, Tilak was accused of "bringing into hatred and contempt, and exciting disloyalty and feelings of enmity toward His Majesty and the Government" through his writings in Keshri.

    Congress: 'One family, one ticket' rule in focus, but Gandhis likely to be exception | Oneindia News

    He had written that this no doubt will inspire many with hatred against the people belonging to the party of rebels. It is not possible to cause British rule to disappear from the country by such monstrous deeds. But rulers who exercise unrestricted power must always remember that there is a limit to the patience of humanity.

    While refusing a lawyer, Tilak defended himself by attacking the sedition charge. He said that as a British subject he was entitled to certain legal rights, such as freedom of expression which were being denied. "The point is whether I was within my rights, and whether a subject of His Majesty in India can or cannot enjoy the same freedom which is enjoyed by British subjects at home and Anglo-Indians out here," he said in court.

    Tilak was however found guilty and sentenced to six years imprisonment with transportation.

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