Kedarnath Singh V State of Bihar(1962): Section 124A and Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code are constitutionally valid.

CaseKedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 955.
CourtHon’ble The Supreme Court of India
BenchBhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha, C.J., A.K. Sarkar, J.R. Madholkar, N. Rajagopala Ayyangar and S.K. Das, JJ.
Author of the judgmentChief Justice Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha
Decided On20/01/1962
Counsel for RespondentShri C. B. Agarwala, Shri Gopal Behari.
Counsel for appellantShri Sharma
Author of the briefMayank Gupta, Student at Gujarat National Law University.
Relevant lawsSection 124-A and Section 505 of The Indian Penal Code, Constitution of India.
KeywordsSedition, Public Mischeif, Article 19(1)(a), Article 19(2).

BRIEF FACTS OF THE JUDGEMENT:

  • One Kedar Nath Singh a member of the Forward Communist Party in Bihar was involved in terming the officers of C.I.D as “dogs”, the Indian National Congress as “Goondas”, he went on saying that he believe in revolution, which will come and in the flames of which the capitalists, zamindars and the Congress leaders of India, who have made it their profession to loot the country, will be reduced to ashes and on their ashes will be established a Government of the poor and the downtrodden people of India. He also targeted Vinobha Bhave’s attempts to redistribute land.
  • Subsequently, Kedar Nath Singh was convicted by the Trial Court under Section 124-A (Sedition) and Section 505 (Public Mischief) and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year. On appeal, a Single Judge Bench of The Patna High Court comprising Justice Naqui Imam upheld the conviction and accordingly dismissed the appeal. In his judgement, it was observed by the learned judge that “the subject-matter of the charge against the appellant was nothing but a vilification of the Government; that it was full of incitements to revolution and that the speech taken as a whole was certainly seditious. It is not a speech criticising any particular policy of the Government or criticising any of its measures.”
  • On further appeal, the matter was placed before a Divison Bench of the Supreme Court along with a bunch of appeals of the same subject matter from the State of Uttar Pradesh. As there was an issue of constitutional validity of the Section 124-A and Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, the Divison Bench accordingly referred the matter to a Constitution bench. After examining the impugned provisions by referring to the judicial history of the same the Apex court was confronted with two conflicting judgements of the Federal Court in Niharendu Dutt Majumdar v. The King (1942) F.C.R. 38 and The Privy Council in King-Emperor v. Sadashiv Narayan Bhalerao I.L.R. (1947) IndAp 89.
  • While dealing with these two judgments, the Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the opinion that if the judgement and interpretation of the Federal Court are accepted then the impugned sections would come within the ambit of permissible legislative restrictions on the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. On the other hand, if the judgement and interpretations of the Privy Council be accepted then the impugned sections are liable to be quashed as unconstitutional in view of Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2). In this manner, the scope of the impugned sections was restricted and the Constitutional validity of both the impugned sections was upheld. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and appeal of other connected matter was remanded back to the concerned High Court.

ISSUES INVOLVED:

  1. Whether Sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code are ultra vires in view of Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2) of the Constitution?
  2. Whether the intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence is required to constitute the offence of sedition?

RATIO:

ISSUE 1- Whether Sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code are ultra vires in view of Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2) of the Constitution?

The Supreme Court held that it is the security of the State, which depends upon the maintenance of law and order and is the very basic consideration upon which legislation, with a view to punishing offences against the State, is undertaken. Such a legislation has, on the one hand, fully to protect and guarantee the freedom of speech and expression, which is the sine quo non of a democratic form of Government that our Constitution has established. It held that such a restriction is necessary for the safety and integrity of the State. Accordingly, the Supreme held that Section 124-A and Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code was intra vires of the Constitution of India considering Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2).

 

ISSUE 2- Whether the intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence is required to constitute the offence of sedition?

The Apex Court while perusing the conflicting decisions of the Federal Court and The Privy Council was of the opinion that if the interpretation of Privy Council that even without any tendency to disorder or intention to create disturbance of law and order, by the use of words written or spoke which merely create disaffection or feelings of enmity against the Government, the offence of sedition is complete, then such an interpretation of the sections would make then unconstitutional in view of Art. 19(1)(a) read with clause (2). Accordingly the interpretation of the Federal Court that that the gist of the offence of ‘sedition’ is incitement to violence or the tendency or the intention to create public disorders by words spoken or written, which have the tendency or the effect of bringing the Government established by law into hatred or contempt or creating disaffection in the sense of disloyalty to the State was accepted and the Section was given a restrictive interpretation.

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