Sedition case for ‘pro-Pak’ slogans: What did SC rule on archaic law?

Leona, a student of a south Bengaluru college, in her address appeared to explain the audience the difference between chanting “Pakistan Zindabad and Hindustan zindabad”.

On Friday, the Bengaluru Police arrested student activist Amulya Leona on charges of sedition for allegedly raising “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans at a Bengaluru protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Leona, a student of a south Bengaluru college, in her address appeared to explain the audience the difference between chanting “Pakistan Zindabad and Hindustan zindabad”. Who is Amulya Leona?

Similarly, four years ago in 2016, the then Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was also charged with sedition for allegedly leading a procession and supporting seditious slogans raised on campus during the event held to mark the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The case is pending before a Delhi court.

Recently, JNU PhD student Sharjeel Imam was charged with sedition over a speech delivered at Aligarh Muslim University. A special investigation team of Delhi Police’s Crime Branch alleged that Imam was a volunteer at Shaheen Bagh, the epicenter of CAA-NRC protests in the national capital, and claimed that he drummed up support among students for the protest against the two laws.

What did the Supreme Court say on sedition in 1995?

The sedition law, under Section 124A IPC, is a legacy of the British Raj, which used it to stifle dissent and the national movement for freedom. The archaic law has been challenged in various courts. And in 1995, the Supreme Court in the Balwant Singh and Another v State Of Punjab case, had observed: "The casual raising of the slogans, once or twice by two individuals alone cannot be said to be aimed at exciting or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the Government…, Section 124A IPC, would in the facts and circumstances of the case have no application whatsoever and would not be attracted to the facts and circumstances of the case."

Singh and his accomplice had raised anti-India slogans in Chandigarh, on the day of Indira Gandhi's assassination on October 31, 1984. The slogans were “Khalistan zindabad”, “Raj karega Khalsa (Only the believer shall rule)”, and “Hinduan nun Punjab chon kadh ke chhadange, hun mauka aya hai raj kayam karan da (We will drive Hindus out of Punjab; now is the chance to establish our rule)”.

Read | Sedition: SC’s shown the way, but govts have refused to see

The top court had noted that in spite of the fact that the appellants raised the slogans a couple of times, the people, in general, were unaffected and carried on with their normal activities.

The court had then pulled up the police for exhibiting lack of maturity and more of sensitivity in arresting the appellants for raising the slogans. “In situations like that, over-sensitiveness sometimes is counter-productive and can result is inviting trouble,” the bench had observed, adding, “Raising of some lonesome slogans, a couple of times by two individuals, without anything more, did not constitute any threat to the Government of India… (nor) could (it) give rise to feelings of enmity or hatred among different communities…”

What did SC say in 1962 - Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar?

A five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court in Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962) had ruled that while the clause was constitutional, its operation was limited only to activities involving “incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace”.

As per the judgment, an allegedly seditious speech will not attract the charge of sedition unless it is established that it incited violence or mooted creating public disorder.