Before discussing the criteria for stating an activity as a means of sedition or not, it would be beneficial to first know exactly what Sedition means. Sedition is a conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch. Popularly heard synonyms of Sedition include incitement, agitation, rabble-rousing, provocation and inflaming, to name a few.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU, has been on the news for quite some time, and so as expected, everyone in our Country has an opinion about it. A recent video blog that went viral all over the internet showed a journalist asking the people of Delhi about the JNU controversy and whether they think what JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar did could be classified as an act of sedition.
Regardless of their personal judgments, the most surprising part of the entire video blog was how uninformed the youth was, and how they had reached on to final judgments without much knowledge about what actually happened in JNU on the evening of 9th February 2016.
Another shocking revelation was the response of the youth to a simple question, “Who was Afzal Guru?” The answers to this question ranged from Afzal Guru being a revolutionary like Bhagat Singh, a Kashmir based poet, to him being the master mind behind the Mumbai attacks of 26/11.
This revelation brings us to a matter of perhaps a deeper concern than the legal issues surrounding The Jawaharlal University, has speaking out loud and voicing an opinion about every issue become a norm in our country? And should these baseless and lackluster opinions be given the kind of social acknowledgment and media attention and support that they are receiving?
Kanhaiya Kumar is being publicly accused of being involved in Sedition and anti-Nationalism activities. Another shocking event that took place recently was when hundreds of lawyers marched from the Patiala House Courts Complex to India gate in Delhi to protest against the students of JNU and to demand action against certain JNU students whom they considered “anti-national”.
Some lawyers even attempted to attack the youth accused. This event has been condemned by veterans in the legal fraternity as a shame to the legal system. The lawyers condemning these activities have shown their discontent on the recent events and have stated that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is being wrongly used as a catalyst to muzzle dissent amongst the masses.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS SECTION 124A?
The Section 124A in The Indian Penal Code of the Central Government Act is a document stating the definition and criteria under which an individual can be charged under the act of Sedition.
Take a look at what the law says about sedition:
124A. Sedition: 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, 1 shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
- Explanation 1: The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
- Explanation 2: 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.
- Explanation 3: 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.
Classification of offence:
Punishment- Imprisonment for life and fine, or imprisonment for 3 years and fine, or fine Cognizable- Non-bailable- Triable by court of Session- Non-compoundable.
Not all activities that demonstrate a discontent towards the government or the country can be charged on grounds of Sedition. There are many cases of Sedition filed in our country, and not all have had the type of outrage like the one mentioned above. So in conclusion, whatever the charges may be, a proper legal procedure needs to be followed and taking actions based on personal judgments need to be avoided.