In my last piece, I had started a discussion on Section 124A of the IPC which deals with sedition. I had broadly set out the history of the provision, including its original language in 1870 and the amendments undertaken in 1898 and thereafter, leading to the provision as it stands today. In this piece, I will discuss a few landmark judgements which were delivered before the Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950 to understand the treatment of the provision by British Indian Courts.
The first such judgement is Queen-Empress vs Jogendra Chunder Bose And Ors. (1891) delivered by the Calcutta High Court at a time when the provision read as under:
124A. EXCITING DISAFFECTION
Whoever by words, either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, excites, or attempts to excite, feelings of disaffection to the Government established by law in British India, shall be punished with transportation for life or for any term, to which, fine may be added, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
Explanation-Such a disapprobation of the measures of the Government as is compatible with a disposition to render obedience to the lawful authority of the Government and to support the lawful authority of the Government against unlawful attempts to subvert or resist that authority, is not disaffection. Therefore, the making of comments on the measures of the Government, with the intention of exciting only this species of disapprobation, is not an offence within this clause.
A reading of the provision makes it clear that it struck a distinction between exciting feelings of “disaffection” on the one hand, and “disapprobation” of the measures of the Government on the other. According to the Calcutta High Court in 1891, the former referred to a challenge to the lawful authority of the government whereas the latter referred to disapproval of the Government’s measures without calling for disobedience to the authority of the government. Therefore, words, written or spoken, or signs or any form of visible representation which were intended to excite feelings of disaffection towards the government, which were distinct from merely disapprobation or disapproval of the government’s measures, attracted the provision. Mere intention to create disaffection as deciphered from the written or spoken word or visible representation was sufficient, without the need for that intention to have achieved fruition.