Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

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The Supreme recently referred petitions challenging Section 124A, the provision for sedition in the Indian Penal Code, to a Constitution Bench.

About Section 124A of the IPC

  • Section 124A of the IPC deals with sedition.
  • History of Sedition Law:
    • Section 124A was drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay and included in the IPC in 1870.
    • The section was first included to address the growth of Wahabi activity between 1863 and 1870. The colonial authorities faced a difficulty as a result of these actions.
    • Indian nationalist leaders were involved in some of the most well-known sedition cases of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    • The earliest of these was Jogendra Chandra Bose's trial in 1891. He served as the newspaper Bangobasi's editor. He published a piece denouncing the Age of Consent Bill for endangering the faith and its coercive treatment of Native Americans.
    • In 1897, Bal Gangadhar Tilak's articles in Kesari were the subject of legal action.
    • The other well-known case included Mahatma Gandhi's 1922 sedition trial. Sedition, according to Gandhi, is "the prince among the political sections of the IPC meant to destroy the freedom of the citizen."
    • Post-Independence:
  • After independence, the term “sedition” was removed from the Constitution in 1948, after debate in the Constituent Assembly.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru proposed the first amendment to the Constitution in 1951, which limited freedom under Article 19 (1) (a) and gave the state the authority to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the right to free expression.
  • Indira Gandhi’s government made section 124A a criminal offense for the first time in Indian history. The new Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which came into effect in 1974 and repealed the 1898 Colonial-Era Code of Criminal Procedure, made sedition a knowable crime.
  • What does Section 124A state?
    • It states, "Whoever, 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 shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, , or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, which fine may be added, or with fine."
    • In simple words, this means anyone who attempts to create hatred, contempt, or disaffection towards the government can be punished under the sedition law.
  • Punishment:
    • Sedition is a non-bailable offence.
    • Punishment under the law varies from imprisonment up to three years to a life term and fine.
    • A person charged under this law can't apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court as and when required.


Q1) What is a non-bailable offence?

A non-bailable offense is a criminal offense for which an accused person cannot be released on bail by the police or other law enforcement authorities, and only a court can grant bail. In such cases, bail is not a matter of right, and the court has the discretion to decide whether to grant bail based on various factors.

Source: Sedition law | Supreme Court refers petitions challenging validity of Section 124A to Constitution Bench