Article 19(1)(A) vs. Section 124A of I.P.C.

Categories: ARCHIVE, Journal
VOLUME:- 4  ISSUE NO:- 4   , OCTOBER 18, 2023

ARTICLE 19(1)(a) VS. §124A OF I.P.C 


Authored by:- K. VISHNU PRIYA 




This paper explains how Sedition, which has been a contentious issue, stifles the Fundamental Right to  Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined in the Constitution of India under Article 19(1)(a). This  analysis focuses on the historical connotation of §124A of the Indian Penal Code that deals with Sedition,  keeping in perspective the need and intention behind bringing this law up. This study tries to maintain the  balance between protecting national interests and the protection of fundamental rights of the citizens. This  paper provides a comprehensive understanding of various case laws and jurisprudence and throws light  on the rights of the citizens. This paper contributes to the ongoing debate on the implementation of  Sedition law and how it is used as a political tool in the age of democracy that results in intense  infringement upon the fundamental rights of the citizens 


  • Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution 
  • §124 of the Indian Penal Code 
  • Democratic values and ethos & Violence against the State 
  • Vinod Dua case, Kedar Nath case, Toolkit case, etc.  


To provide a context for this paper, the analysis is laid upon Sedition, which is a section in I.P.C. used to  punish people who invoke violent rebellion against the Government and upon Article 19 of the Indian  Constitution that strives to protect the freedom of Citizens to freely express and speak in the ‘Democracy’  which works for the people, by the people, and of the people. By acknowledging that Fundamental Rights  are not absolute and come with certain limitations and restrictions, the paper reminds us of the fact that  this section is no longer used for national interests; instead, it became a political tool to stifle political  dissent. By uplifting the democratic values and ethos, it must be realized that the views of the Demos will  be the backbone of the democracy! To realize this fundamental truth, a shield is provided to protect the  liberties of people; Article 19 was drafted. In a wider context, the dynamic between sedition laws and  Article 19 has given rise to important questions regarding the delicate balance between the government’s  power to preserve law and order and the freedom of citizens to express their views without the threat of  prosecution.

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The origins of the sedition law within the Indian Penal Code (IPC) can be traced back to the colonial era  when the IPC was first introduced in 1860 under British rule. Section 124A, specifically addressing  seditious activities, was incorporated with the primary aim of quelling dissent and thwarting challenges to  British colonial authority.1 During that period, the British colonial administration frequently encountered  opposition and protests from Indian nationalists who were advocating for independence and self 

governance. Section 124A was introduced as a means to stifle dissent and categorize those advocating for  freedom as seditious individuals. 

The underlying objective of introducing the sedition law into the IPC was essentially to safeguard the  interests of the colonial government by suppressing any form of protest, criticism, or opposition. The  British authorities aimed to maintain control and order in India, deeming any expression of dissent as a  direct threat to their dominion. Consequently, Section 124A was employed as a tool to target individuals  or groups who dared to voice objections against the British government, its policies, or its actions. 

Although the colonial era concluded with India’s attainment of independence in 1947, Section 124A  remained embedded in the IPC, and independent India retained this provision. Over the years, this law has  been invoked in various instances, sparking debates about its relevance and its alignment with the  principles of a democratic society. Critics argue that the sedition law can be vulnerable to abuse, allowing  the suppression of legitimate dissent and encroaching upon the fundamental right to freedom of speech  and expression, a right enshrined in the Indian Constitution. 

The wording of s.124A effectively criminalizes any form of expression or behavior that may be  perceived as fostering contempt or disaffection toward the government. This lack of precision creates  opportunities for abuse and selective application, often targeting political adversaries. Over the years,  governments have employed the sedition law selectively to suppress voices critical of the ruling regime,  particularly singling out activists, journalists, and political opponents. Originally intended to quell anti 

colonial sentiments during the colonial era, the sedition law has since been transformed into a tool for  stifling dissent in independent India. Its wide-reaching language and unclear provisions have made it  susceptible to misapplication, intensifying concerns about striking a balance between national security  and safeguarding freedom of expression in a democratic society. 

1Indian Penal Code, 1860, §124A. 

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It was held in Zakir Hussian vs. Union Territory of Ladakh that a person could be arrested under §124A  when it is established that the words, whether spoken or written, along with signs or visible depictions,  had the potential or the purpose of inciting public turmoil or the disturbance of public tranquility through  the provocation of unlawful conduct.2 Procedural guidelines were laid down by the court in this court  when charges are imposed on an individual under §124A. An individual may face arrest for sedition under  the following circumstances: 

Expressing Hatred or Contempt: If a person, through spoken or written words, signs, or visible  representations, fosters a sense of hatred or contempt toward the legally established Indian government,  they may be subject to sedition charges. 

Inciting Disaffection: When an individual’s expressions, in any form, are perceived as an effort to  provoke disaffection, which entails feelings of disloyalty or disapproval, against the Indian government, it  can result in a sedition arrest. 

In brief, in India, an individual may face sedition charges if their words or deeds are perceived as stirring  up feelings of hatred, contempt, or disaffection towards the government recognized by law, to generate  public turmoil or violence. Nevertheless, the practical enforcement of sedition laws can be intricate and  contentious, necessitating a reasonable approach and adherence to the legal precedents. 


The architects of the Indian Constitution were profoundly influenced by democratic ideals and  acknowledged the significance of enabling citizens to express their opinions freely. Within a democratic  framework, the capacity of individuals to articulate their views, critique the government, and engage in  public discourse is indispensable for ensuring a lively and effective democracy. The struggle for  independence from British colonial rule shaped the Indian Constitution. Having directly experienced the  suppression of their freedom of speech and expression under colonial governance, the people of India  prioritized the inclusion of these rights in the new Constitution to prevent a recurrence of such oppressive  measures. The incorporation of freedom of speech and expression into the Indian Constitution was driven  by the imperative of upholding the nation’s democratic essence, safeguarding the rights of individuals,  and fostering an inclusive and diverse society that values and respects the voices of all its citizens. 

The ongoing struggle between Article 19 and Section 124A of the IPC underscores the challenge of  striking a delicate balance between individual rights and the government’s responsibility to preserve  national security. In this battle, courts play a pivotal role in interpreting the law and determining the  extent to which it can limit freedom of speech and expression without encroaching upon fundamental  rights. 

2 Zakir Hussian vs. Union Territory of Ladakh, CrlM no. 427/2020.

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The constitutionality of Section 124-A was primarily questioned in the landmark case of Kedar Nath  Singh v. State of Bihar.3 The central argument revolved around the contention that Section 124-A was in  conflict with Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.4In its ruling, the Supreme Court clarified that a  offence of sedition under Section 124-A could only be sustained if the spoken or written statements had  the capacity to incite violence and disrupt public order. The court emphasized that an offense under this  section would only be established if the statements were reasonably likely to lead to acts of violence. The  courts were directed to follow the guidelines established in the Kedar Nath case, emphasizing that  accusations of sedition should not be invoked solely for the act of criticizing the government or its  policies. 

In the recent toolkit case, State vs. Disha Ravi, the matter presented to the Delhi High Court revolved  around determining whether the applicant/accused, Disha, was merely involved in peaceful dissent and  protest against the agricultural acts, or if her demonstrations against the legislations were indeed seditious  in nature.5 The court by granting bail, held that an informed and assertive population, as opposed to an  apathetic or meek public, is undeniably a hallmark of a healthy and vigorous democracy, hence one can’t  be arrested under §124A for merely being active or criticizing the government. 

There are instances where §124A was used against individuals for offence committed which doesn’t come  under its ambit. In the case of Rajina Parbin Sultana v. State of Assam6, when the accused dishonored the  National Flag, she was arrested under §124A of I.P.C., and the court observed this flaw by making her  accused under §2 of National Honor Act, 1971. According to the court, there was no indication that this  action aimed to incite contempt, hatred, or disaffection against the government with the intention of  overthrowing it, hence doesn’t come under §124A of I.P.C. 

In a different case, the police had received information about a gathering in a village where seditious  speeches were being delivered. Among the 30-40 attendees, a few individuals were in possession of  firearms. Upon the police’s arrival, the people started fleeing, and the accused-appellants were  subsequently apprehended. During their arrest, they were found to be in possession of multiple seditious  flyers and pamphlets. A complaint was filed against them, and charges were framed under Sections 121A,  122, and 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. But the court held that nothing could be proved as to the  actions committed were against the state and done with the intention of uprooting the government by  provoking violence or rebellion.7 

3 Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, 1962 AIR 955. 

4INDIAN CONST., Art. 19, Cl. 2, ss. A.  

5 State vs. Disha Ravi, CM APPL. 6685/2021. 

6 Rajina Parbin Sultana v. State of Assam, Bail Appln/1123/2021. 

7 Patit Paban Halder v. State of West Bengal, CRA No. 337 of 2006. 

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In Kishorechandra v. Union of India, two journalists were arrested for their posts and cartoons criticizing  the Government of Manipur. They challenged the constitutional validity of §124A, claiming that it  infringes their freedom of speech and expression. They argue that the legal precedent established in Kedar  Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962) is no longer applicable. This is due to changes in socio-economic  conditions since 1962, which may have justified certain limitations as outlined in Section 124A during  that era. Since then, new laws pertaining to safety, security, and public order have been enacted, making  Section 124A obsolete. They contended that §124A, in their view, does not constitute a justifiable  restriction. Consequently, they believe it falls outside the ambit of the reasonable restriction imposed on  the freedom of speech and expression as defined by Article 19(2). This case is a recent one and is still  pending in court.8 

In another landmark judgement, Vinod Dua vs. Union of India, allegations were leveled against Vinod  Dua, asserting that his show, through false accusations, incited fear among the populace. The First  Information Report (FIR) also contended that the program had the potential to agitate public discontent,  leading to panic and causing individuals to disregard the lockdown and hoard unnecessary supplies. These  rumors were disseminated with the intent to instill fear or anxiety in the general public or a specific  segment thereof, with the goal of inducing someone to commit an offense against the state or disrupt  public tranquility. However, the Supreme Court of India upheld the Constitutional rights of the Citizens to  express dissent against the government that doesn’t level into a rebellion.9 

For instance, in Rajat Sharma vs. Union of India10, based on the statements made in an interview, a case  was filed under §124A claiming that those utterances would amount to seditious hence must be punished.  The court held that labeling the act of expressing a viewpoint that contradicts a decision taken by the  Central Government as seditious is not feasible. The statement in question did not contain any content  deemed by the Supreme Court as offensive or derogatory enough to warrant the initiation of court  proceedings. 

8 Kishorechandra v. Union of India, IA No.27982/2021. 

9 Vinod Dua vs. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 414.  

10 Rajat Sharma vs. Union of India, (2021) 5 SCC 585.

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According to the data provided by NRCB, among the 475 sedition cases recorded in India from 2014 to  2021, Assam contributed 69 cases, which is equivalent to approximately 14.52 percent. In other words,  about one out of every six sedition cases registered in the country during the past eight years originated  from Assam. 

Source: IE 

The highest number of such instances were documented in Haryana (42 cases), with Jharkhand (40),  Karnataka (38), Andhra Pradesh (32), and Jammu and Kashmir (29) following closely. These six states  together contributed 250 cases, which is over half of the total sedition cases registered across the country  during the eight-year period. 

The conviction percentage is relatively smaller. It clearly shows that people are redundantly getting  arrested on baseless grounds, and this purportedly points towards the fulfillment of the political interests  of the political people. This severely infringes the rights of the citizens. Through these actions, not just  their right to freedom of speech and expression is curtailed, but their right to life is curtailed. Their living  conditions are affected, their freedom to live in the society is curtailed. Unnecessary imposition of false  charges of Sedition for deviant purposes is highly encouraged under §124A! Only the judiciary that the  people approach as a last resort for seeking justice can become a beacon of true Justice and hope to the  victims of this colonial-draconian-political law. 

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It is established through this paper that a citizen possesses the right to dissent or criticize the government’s  actions and its officials, provided that such commentary does not encourage people to resort to violence  against the government established by law or with the purpose of fomenting public turmoil. Sections  124A should be invoked exclusively when the words or expressions exhibit a harmful inclination or intent  to provoke public disorder or disrupt the established law and order. In recent times, there have been  appeals to reconsider and possibly modify or abolish Section 124A to bring it in harmony with the values  of a contemporary democratic society. Conversely, supporters of the law contend that it is indispensable  for preserving the nation’s unity and integrity and shielding it against both internal and external threats.  Nevertheless, it is imperative to examine the historical origins of the sedition law in the IPC, which  underscore its roots in colonial repression. Its continued existence in post-independence India prompts  significant inquiries about the equilibrium between national security and the freedom of speech. 

In every democratic country, citizens should not be subjected to imprisonment solely on the grounds of  their disagreement with government policies. Variances in viewpoints, conflicts, deviations, expressions  of dissent, and even expressions of disapproval are acknowledged as legitimate methods to introduce  objectivity into government initiatives. The introduction of Section 124A in the Indian Penal Code, 1860,  aims to repress and eliminate any perpetuating forms of opposition within society. Such an inclination  contradicts the fundamental principles of a democratic system. Having such a provision in a progressive  country like India seems unnecessary. The severity of the penalty associated with this provision makes it  draconian. The persistence of such a clause has a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression,  which is ostensibly a fundamental right protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. India  needs to adapt and reform its sedition laws to align with the evolving requirements of society.

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