Centre for Communication Governance at NLU delhi
Indian Case Law

Niharendu Dutt Majumdar V. King Emperor, 1942 F.C.R.38 [Federal Court]

The case held that public disorder, or the reasonable anticipation or likelihood of public disorder, is the gist of the offence of sedition and “the acts or words complained of must either incite to disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that that is their intention or tendency.

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Emperor V. Sadashiv Narayan, AIR 1947 PC 82 [Privy Council]

The Privy Council in this case over-ruled the interpretation of sedition given by the Federal Court in Niharendu Dutt. It held that the offence consisted in exciting or attempting to excite in others certain bad feelings towards the Government and not in exciting or attempting to excite mutiny or rebellion, or any sort of actual disturbance, great or small.” Thus, according to the Privy Council, incitement to violence was not a necessary ingredient of the offence of the sedition.

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Brij Bhushan V. State of Delhi, [1950] Supp SCR 245 [Supreme Court]

The case examines sedition in the light of the Indian Constitution. The Court in this case held that sedition undermined the security of the State, and that this was usually through the medium of public disorder. Hence, the law of sedition falls within the exceptions to Freedom of Speech and Expression provided for in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

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Tarasingh Gopichand V. State, 1951 CriLJ 449 [Punjab & Haryana High Court]

In this case the accused had made certain speeches in 1950 at Shahabad and Ludhiana, in connection with which he was charged with sedition. The Court opined that Section 124-A was irrelevant in a modern democracy like India, and declared it unconstitutional as it violated the Freedom of Speech and Expression.

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Ram Nandan V. State, AIR 1959 All 101 [Allahabad High Court]

The constitutionality of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code was challenged in this case. The court held that the provision was an invalid restriction of Freedom of Speech as it was possible for people who legitimately and peaceably criticise the Government to be caught in “the mischief of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

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Kedar Nath Singh V. State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 955 [Supreme Court]

The constitutionality of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code was impugned in this case. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the sedition law (over-ruling the Ram Nandan case), but at the same time curtailed its meaning and limited its application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence. The judges observed that if the sedition law were to be given a wider interpretation, it would not survive the test of constitutionality.

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