Picture by V. Arun Kumar

Sedition VS Dissent: A Brief Legal History of Rulings In India

JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar’s supposedly ‘seditious’ speech:


The arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges is unlawful.

Supreme Court of India in Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar held that political movements centered upon principled civil disobedience are not to be hit with sedition charges. A clear disturbance in public order resulting in the compromise of the security of the state must be proved for an act to be seditious.

Unreasonable anticipatory disturbance in public order is not sedition, civil disobedience is not sedition.

Dissenting, shouting slogans criticizing the state is not sedition. [P.J. Manuel v. State of Kerala]. Letting the common man know about injustices in society and the violence by state or non-state parties occurring in the nation is not sedition. [Pankaj Butalia v. Central Board of Film Certification]. Highlighting the corruption carried out by the government and the failures of the government is not sedition. [ Sanskar Marathe v. State of Maharashtra]

It is relevant here to remember what Justice Mridula Bhatkar said, while granting anticipatory bail to Teesta Setalvad, “A citizen may conduct social activities and may have a different point of view which may not be liked by the government. However, in a democratic State, a citizen may have his or her own point of view and rather it is the duty of the State to protect that right to have a different view.” … / … “A dissenting view cannot be said to be against the sovereignty of the nation. It may be against the policy of the government. [Being] against the government and [being] against the sovereignty of the nation are two different concepts.”

Dissent is not sedition.

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Written by Raya Sarkar & edited by Manisha

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