Sedition – Legal Provisions and Case Laws

By | January 28, 2018


Sedition in the ordinary sense means a stirring up of rebellion against the Government. Sedition is an offence against the state. Sedition is nothing but libel (defamation) of the established authority of law, i.e., Government. Hence it is called seditious libel in England. Sedition consists in attempt made, by meeting or speeches by Publications, to disturb the tranquility of the state, which does not amount to treason. In Kedar Nath vs State of Bihar [AIR 1962 SC 955] Supreme Court held the constitutional validity of Section 124 a that it does not violate article 19(1)a, of the constitution.


The object of sedition generally are to induce discontent and insurrection, to stir up opposition to the Government and to bring the administration of justice into contempt, and the very tendency of sedition is to incite the people to insurrection and rebellion. (Fitzerland, J., in Reg. v. A.M. Sullivan (1868) 11 Cox CC 44)

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, 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.]

Essential ingredients of this section are-

  1. Bringing or attempting to bring hatred or contempt or exciting or attempting to excite dissatisfaction towards Government of India.
  2. Such act may be done by words either spoken or written; or signs; or visible representation.

The essence of the offence under the section consists in the intention with which the language is used. The intention of a speaker, writer or a publisher may be inferred from the particular speech article or letter. Ramnandan vs State of Uttar Pradesh [AIR 1969 All 101]

A person may be charged not only with exciting but also with attempting to excite and both successful and unsuccessful attempts to excite dissatisfaction were placed on the same footing.  Q.E. vs Bal Gangadhar Tilak [1898 ILR 22 Bom. 112]

In Surendra Narayan Aditcharya [1911 39 Cal 522], it was held that sending through the post a packet containing manuscript of a seditious Publication with a covering letter requesting the address to circulate it to others, when the same was intercepted by any other person and never reach the addressee it constitutes an attempt to commit an offence under this section.

Dissatisfaction may be excited in a number of forms that is poem, drama, story, novel or essay. But if the seditious matter is not published and it remains in the hands of the author, it is not sedition as the publication of some kind is essential. Foster 198

It is not only the author but also the publisher or any person who used the matter in any way, words printed for the purpose of exciting the feelings of dissatisfaction to the government is liable under this section. Q.E. vs Bal Gangadhar Tilak [1898 ILR 22 Bom. 112]

Author – Mayank Shekhar


  1. K.D. Gaur, Textbook on Indian Penal Code, Fifth Edition 2014
  2. Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, Indian Penal Code, Thirty-Fifth Edition
  3. SCC Online

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