Significance of the Kedar Nath Singh Judgment on Sedition


The significance of Kedar Nath Singh judgment for sedition cases was once again highlighted in the recent Vinod Dua sedition case. The 1962 judgment upheld Section-124A of the Indian Penal Code, but it significantly narrowed down the provision.

  • The SC struck down a sedition case filed under Section-124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against journalist Vinod Dua.
    • The case was filed over Dua’s comments on his YouTube channel in which he criticized the government. 
    • He was charged under sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing matter known to be defamatory) and 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) of the IPC.
  • The SC ruled that every journalist is entitled to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh judgment and thereby dismissed the sedition charges.
What is Section 124A of IPC?
  • Sedition is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring contempt or hatred towards the government of India. Sedition cases are punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • It was inserted into IPC in 1870. The section was introduced initially to deal with increasing Wahabi activities between 1863 and 1870. These activities posed a challenge to the colonial government.
Facts of Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar (1962) case:
  • Kedar Nath was booked for sedition for a seditious speech during his rally at Begusarai.
  • In his speech, he equated elected congress representatives with local goondas (goons). He called for taking back the rule through a general revolution and reducing capitalists, zamindars and Congress into ashes. The aim was to establish a government of the poor and the downtrodden people of India.
  • He was convicted for sedition by a lower court, and later he appealed in SC over the constitutional validity of Section 124A. As per the appeal, Section-124A violated the right to free speech under Article 19 of the constitution.
SC’s ruling in Kedar Nath case:
  • It upheld the constitutional validity of Section-124A however it restricted its scope for misuse.
  • What constitutes sedition? – It said that any act which has an effect of subverting the Government by violent means or creating public disorder would come within the definition of sedition.
  • What is not sedition? – However, mere disapproval of the measures of government with a view to demanding their improvement or alteration by lawful means is not sedition. 
  • Right to criticize: the Court agreed that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment.
    • Limitations: Provided it does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.
  • The court deduced that Kedarnath’s speech gave a general reference to revolution and the element of inciting violence against the government was absent. Therefore, he was acquitted of sedition charges.

Source: The Indian Express 

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