Can raising of Slogan suffice to charge a person with Sedition?
Section 124A of Indian Penal Code talks about Sedition it says offence of Sedition is said to be committed when “any person by words, 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.” Here, disaffection includes disloyalty and all the feelings of enmity. However, all those comments which do not excite or attempts to excite contempt, hatred, or disaffection, will not come under the offense of sedition.
AMULYA LEONA INCIDENT
Amulya Leona Noronha is a 19-year old student activist from Malnad District of Chikkamagaluru who was arrested and was booked for Sedition just after she said ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogan three times in her speech which she was giving during an anti-CAA-NRC protest in Bangalore. There was gathering in the Freedom Park of central Bangalore under the theme of “Save Constitution” where she shouted this slogan thrice. There were various dignitaries present at the gathering. As soon as she shouted the slogan thrice the MP of Hyderabad and Chief of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. Asaduddin Owaisi was present at the stage and they immediately condemned the statement made by Amulya Leona and they further said “ Murdabad to all those who raise such slogans”. After saying “Pakistan Zindabad” thrice she went on saying “Hindustan Zindabad” also and tried to explain something, but the police dragged her away to the backstage and were immediately taken out from the venue where the protest was going on.
In sedition, the Mens Rea is the Presupposition of the Disaffection itself and the display of disaffection constitutes the Actus Reus. It means there has to be the presence of intention along with the act to charge a person under sedition. Amulya Leone was not having any intention of bringing any hatred or contempt or disaffection towards the government. She only said ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ and by speaking just these words do not prove that she has the intention of doing so. Secondly, when President Donald Trump visited India and when people shouted ‘America Zindabad’ then none them was charged with sedition then why Amulya Leone. Only because she said ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. Since as we all know that India has not declared Pakistan as an enemy country or neither India is having a war with Pakistan therefore saying just these two words only in a rally which is against some law does not bring any hatred or disaffection towards the government.
In R v. A.M. Sullivan it was held that sedition has been described as disloyalty in actions and includes all those practices which can excite discontent or dissatisfaction to create a public disturbance, or to lead a civil war, or to bring hatred or contempt the sovereign, the laws or constitution of the realm and generally all endeavors to promote public disorder. Here in this case the saying of the slogan by Amulya Leona did not create any public disorder not excited people to have a disaffection towards the government. Hence Amulya should not be charged with sedition according to this case. In Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar, the court held that there is limited application of Section 124A i.e it is limited to the “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder or disturbance of law and order or incitement to violence”.
Here, in this case, Amulya saying only two words does not involve any intention of creating disorder neither her words were creating a disturbance of law and order. Saying ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ does not mean that she is saying something negative about India or which is something forbidden by law or which is something that can be called legal wrong. Therefore she cannot be charged with sedition. In the Balwant Singh and Another v. State of Punjab, it was held that raising a slogan once or twice by an individual cannot be said to excite or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the government and the court further noted that despite raising slogans a couple of times, of people, were unaffected and carried on their normal activities then the person cannot be charged with sedition. Here in this case also just mere saying ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ once or a couple of times will not amount to sedition as the people were unaffected and secondly mere saying it once or twice cannot be said to excite or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the government.
Section 124A punishes for bringing any hatred and disaffection towards the government established by law, it is not against the country. Amulya didn’t say anything against the country nor the government. She only said slogan which was positive of Pakistan. Here in this case representations by Amulya Leona neither provoked hatred nor contempt towards the state, not they even condemn the state, to begin with. Only praising another country did not amount to sedition. Here the present case did not fulfill the essential ingredients of Sedition as the first slogan said by her was not against the government established by law neither it was against the state. It was just a positive slogan that was praising and advocating another country. Secondly, it did not bring any hatred or contempt or disaffection towards the government, and thirdly, the slogan did show any disloyalty or any feeling of enmity towards the government.
In Balwant Singh V State of Punjab, it was held that slogans like “Khalistan Zindabad’ and ‘Hindustan Murdabad’ will not amount to sedition. Therefore by taking the support of this precedent also it can be said that mere saying ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ does not amount to sedition. As soon as the girl said ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ she was dragged by the police officer and was not allowed to say further this shows a lack of maturity on the part of the police. As to how without giving her a chance to explain further why she said so or anything she was just dragged by the police. Secondly, it was a legal wrong on the part of the police as the act of the Amulya did not fulfill the ingredients of Sedition and it was legally not permissible for the police to drag her for the offense which she is not committing.
Here charging, Amulya Leona under Section 124A was wrong as the essential ingredients of this section were not fulfilled. A slogan or speech or word can be said to be seditious only when it attempts to entice or entices the disaffection towards the government. And here in this case slogan did not excite any disaffection towards the government.
“A DIRE NEED TO SCRAP SEDITION LAWS IN INDIA”
Section 124A many times becomes a tool for the politicians and other political leaders to suppress the voices of their dissenters. These politicians just after listening to some comments or viewpoints against them or against their policies they just rush to the police station and file a complaint against their dissenter and urge the police to take serious action against them. The police also under the pressure of the politician charge the dissenter under Sedition. This section somewhere suppresses the Fundamental Rights of individuals i.e. free speech and free thought. Before independence, this section was present because at that time the state wanted to punish everyone who says anything against the state or tried to overthrow the state. But now India is an Independent country the presence of such provisions only creates a terror among the citizens and this section bullies them. And when people will think of writing something first thought that will come in their mind will be that they should write in a way so that they do not get charged under this section. Because of this, they are not able to write freely and peacefully and they keep their thoughts inside them only.
This case of Amulya Leona has also created terror among the students and leaders as just a mere saying of slogan once or twice by a girl caught her under the charges of sedition and was dragged by the police. This created a picture in the minds of the young generation that they cannot say their ideas and thoughts freely among the public which is somewhere that can harm the Indian Constitution. In recent incidents, it can be noted down that the core principles of sedition which are laid down by the Supreme Court in various cases i.e. the incitement to violence or the tendency to create public disorder has been set aside and nowadays people are simply charges under sedition when they make any criticism of government policies and personalities or when they say slogans which appraise another country or say slogans which voice against the political leaders.
The right to make criticism and the right to raise a question is very fundamental to democracy. And restricting these rights in such a democratic country like India is not at all good. And this restriction is somewhere placed by Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The very term ‘disaffection’ in the section itself is vague as this word can have different interpretations according to different people according to their whims and fancies. There are various other sections and acts like UAPA which helps in protecting the national integrity by penalizing activities like ‘Disrupting the Public Order’ or ‘Overthrowing the government with the violence of illegal means’ or ‘Waging a War against the state’ etc. therefore there is no need of this Section 124A. Therefore according to me this Section 124A of Indian Penal Code should be scrapped off. The above-given arguments will prove that there is a great need of scrapping down Section 124A from the Indian Penal Code.
Mere saying of slogans once or a couple of times does not make a person guilty of Sedition. The same has been reiterated in various judgments like Balwant Singh and Another v. State of Punjab and Kedarnath Singh V. State of Bihar. To charge a person with Sedition all the essential elements of it are required to be fulfilled. It means that when any person with the intention brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excited or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise then only that person can be charged with sedition.
A slogan or speech or word can be said to be seditious only when it attempts to entice or entices the disaffection towards the government. The mere saying of “Pakistan Zindabad” by Amulya Leona does not amount to Sedition as she neither was having any intention to bring hatred or excite disaffection towards the government nor she said any slogan which entices people to go against the government established by law. Secondly, there has been great misuse of this Section 124A by the politicians and the police and somewhere this section restricts the fundamental right of the people i.e. freedom to speech. Since people are under the fear of getting charged under this Section they are not able to put up their ideas, their critique on the government policies in front of the public. Therefore there is an urgent need of Scrapping down Section 124A from the Indian Penal code.
1. R v. Sullivan 45, 11 Cox CC44, (U.S. 1868)
2. Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 955
3. Balwant Singh and Another V. State of Punjab, AIR 1995 SC 411
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This blog has been authored by Isha Gangwal who is a 3rd Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Institute of Law, Nirma University. [PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_20_0104]