Only incitement to violence against state is sedition

Police arresting Indian citizens on charges of sedition has been increasing recently. The latest being the cases against Amnesty International and movie actress and Congress leader Remya. Though most of the cases are finally dismissed, the accused are put into lot of hardships and the process of defending the charge itself has become a punishment. The Indian Supreme Court has now reiterated that only incitement to violence and public disorder can be prosecuted under Sedition law.

The Supreme Court on Monday asserted that “making a strong criticism of the government” is not even defamatory, let alone seditious. The court also directed all authorities, including police and trial judges, to follow its Constitution Bench ruling which stated that only incitement to violence and public disorder could form the basis of a sedition charge. A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday U Lalit maintained that it would not be within the fold of criminal jurisprudence to issue uniform guidelines for registration of FIRs under sedition charge, but underscored that a larger bench has already provided necessary safeguards that should be followed by all authorities. “Suppose somebody makes a strong criticism of the government… even a case of criminal defamation cannot be filed, let alone a case of sedition. Every magistrate is bound by what we said in the Kedar Nath (case),” said the bench. In Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, 1962, a Constitution Bench had ruled in favour of the constitutional validity of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, but had added a vital caveat: that a person could be prosecuted for sedition only if his acts caused “incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace”.

[Read more…]