Published: 29th January 2021
What the FAQ: What is sedition now that Shashi Tharoor been booked for it
Here, we try to make sense of the sedition law, what it lays down and why people in the past and recently have been charged with sedition
Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and several others were booked for sedition on Thursday for allegedly sharing fake news, misinformation, which instigated violence on January 26 during the farmers' rally at Delhi, which later turned violent as clashes broke out between the protestors and the police. According to news reports, an investigation is already underway in this case. Here, we explain what the sedition law entails, why journalists and a politician booked under the law, and more.
What is the Sedition Law?
Ans: Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with sedition, was drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay and included in the IPC in 1870.
What does Section 124A state?
Ans: Section 124A IPC states: "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 a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine." There are a lot of arguments whether the law on sedition is consistent with the fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) which guarantees each citizen’s freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court laid down that every citizen has a right to say or write about the government, by way of criticism or comment, as long as it does not “incite people to violence” against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.
What is the punishment under Section 124A?
Ans: Sedition is a non-bailable offence. Punishment under the law varies from imprisonment up to three years to a life term and fine. A person charged under this law can't apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court as and when required.
Why have Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, Rajdeep Sardesai and other journalists been booked under sedition?
Ans: Noida Police has registered FIRs against eight people including Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six journalists — Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pandey, group editor of National Herald, Zafar Agha, chief editor of Quami Awaz, and editors of The Caravan magazine Paresh Nath, Anant Nath, Vinod K Jose for allegedly provoking, and spreading communal disharmony and fake news during the clashes between the police and protesting farmers on Republic Day. The FIR has been registered under various sections of Indian penal code (IPC) dealing with sedition and for promoting enmity between different religious groups, with intent to provoke breach of the peace, incite violence, and criminal conspiracy.
In the past who all have been charged under this act?
Ans: Kanhaiya Kumar, the former JNUSU leader faced sedition charges in 2016 for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans during a controversial event on the parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. In 2019, former JNU student Umar Khalid, apart from facing the sedition charge for allegedly raising anti-India slogans at the university campus, has also been charge-sheeted by the Delhi police for forgery, rioting and criminal conspiracy in the JNU case of February 2016. Last year former JNU student Sharjeel Imam was charged with sedition before a court here for allegedly inciting people to indulge in activities detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of the country. The police made the allegations in its charge sheet filed before the court in a case related to anti-CAA riots earlier this year.