The Indian position on the issue of sedition

The Daily Guardian

It is sometimes claimed in popular discourse that the Constituent Assembly was dead set against the inclusion of sedition as a restriction on free speech and expression, and therefore, it is argued that the presence of Section 124A of the IPC penalising sedition is an insult to the intent of the framers of the Constitution. However, no credible explanation is offered by the proponents of this school of thought as to what explains the continued presence of Section 124A, which, it can be safely presumed, the framers of the Constitution were aware of when the draft predecessors Article 19 and its limitations were being debated and put together in and by the Constituent Assembly.

It would help to go a few steps before the Constituent Assembly and take a look at the evolution of Indian thought on sedition before we allow pre-conceived notions to dictate the course of our opinions. Let’s start with the 33rd Session of the Indian National Congress held in 1918 wherein the following Resolution on the right to self-determination was moved by Annie Besant and unanimously adopted:

“BE IT RESOLVED

1. That this Congress claims recognition of India by the British Parliament and by the Peace Conference as one of the progressive Nations to whom the principle of Self-Determination should be applied.

2. That in the practical application of the principle in India the first step should be —

(a) the removal of all hindrances to free discussion, and therefore the immediate repeal of all laws, regulations and ordinances restricting the free discussion of political questions whether in the press, private or public meeting, or otherwise, so that the legitimate aspirations and opinion of all residents in India may be fearlessly expressed; further, the abolition of the laws, regulations, and ordinances, which confer on the Executive the power to arrest, detain, intern, extern, or imprison any British subject in India, outside the processes of ordinary civil or criminal law, and the assimilation of the law of sedition to that of England.

(b) The passing of an Act of Parliament which will establish at an early date complete Responsible Government in India.

(c) When complete Responsible Government shall be thus established, the final authority in all internal affairs shall be the Supreme Legislative Assembly as voicing the will of the Indian Nation.

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