Under Section 124A of the IPC, the offense of sedition is committed when any person by words or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law. Three explanations added to the provision lay down that while “disaffection” shall include disloyalty and all feelings of enmity, comments without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, will not constitute an offense.
Sedition is a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offense under the law, entailing life imprisonment as maximum punishment, with or without a fine. Sedition was not a part of the original IPC that was enacted in 1860—it was introduced in 1870, when it was said it had been dropped from the original IPC draft by mistake.
What is not sedition?
The court ruled that disapproval of the measures of government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means is not sedition. It held that “comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of the Government, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence” would not attract the penal offense.
The court added that “commenting in strong terms upon the measures or acts of Government, or its agencies, so as to ameliorate the condition of the people or to secure the cancellation or alteration of those acts or measures by lawful means, that is to say, without exciting those feelings of enmity and disloyalty which imply excitement to public disorder or the use of violence,” is not sedition.
“A citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.”