Two recent decisions of the Supreme Court—first, issuing notice on a petition asking for Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code to be declared entirely unconstitutional, and the other of quashing the prosecution of journalist Vinod Dua while holding that mere criticism of the State does not amount to sedition—will hopefully, and soon, wipe out sedition from the IPC completely.
Under monarchy, mere words against the emperor were enough to attract the death penalty. It mattered little whether those in opposition did no overt act against the king. As time passed, several cases of sedition came before the Privy Council on the issue as to whether mere words against the State were enough to attract the most severe criminal penalty, or if sustained violence against the State was a necessary ingredient. The first case was known as the Bangobasi case, where the Privy Council held that sedition would be attracted “even though no disturbance is brought about by the words”. The next case was Queen Empress v. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, where the Bombay High Court held that “it is absolutely immaterial whether any feelings or disaffection have been excited”. The court held that direct incitement to stir up disorder or rebellion was not necessary.