The legality of the JNU arrests and the law of sedition

“Whilst Lance Nayak Hanumanthappa battled with his life and beyond we had a bunch of misguided missiles raising slogans, without any understanding of the so called Leftist ideology and the Law that they should’ve had before they organised the scandalous cultural event.”

The entire JNU incident has raised a furore throughout the country and has added fuel to the fire that has already been burning in the hearts of the student community regarding various issues that the government is either turning a blind eye to or is interfering with way more than it should.


For the ones who do not know about the incident, well here’s a sneak peak: An event was organised to commemorate and protest against Afzal Guru’s hanging, which according to the organisers of the event was constitutional. The catch in the event were the pamphlets and the posters that were put up and distributed that made it very clear that the event was against the death penalty to, Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat with sprinkles of Kashmir’s self-determination.

This would’ve been a very normal ‘cultural event’ at JNU had things not turned the way they did.
At the event, everyone started raising slogans like, “Bharat ki barbadi takk Jung Rahegi” and “Afzal hum tumahre armanon ko unki manzil take pahunchayenge” and so on and so forth.

And this was the tipping point from where the Right to dissent conferred upon every citizen of India, which was also a fundamental right of the students of the JNU got converted to Sedition under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Now this part is specifically for people who do not know the Law or their understanding of it is based on what the JNU supporters or the Leftist media has been portraying:
Law as it exists does not work on the basis of what we believe and what our perceptions are – Sec.124A of the IPC deals with sedition. The binding precedent with respect to what amounts to sedition under Sec.124A is Kedarnath v. State of Bihar.

The section has been interpreted in a particular way. Even with respect to the arrests that took place at JNU, this interpretation is binding.

The relevant paragraphs of the section are quoted below:

The provisions of the sections read as a whole, along with the explanations, make it reasonably clear that the sections aim at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence. As already pointed out, the explanations appended to the main body of the section make it clear that criticism of public measures or comment on Government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. It is only when the words, written or spoken, etc. which have the pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that the law steps in to prevent such activities in the interest of public order.

If, on the other hand, we were to hold that even without any tendency to disorder or intention to create disturbance of law and order, by the use of words written or spoken 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 them unconstitutional in view of Art. 19(1)(a) read with cl. (2).

Even though I call myself a leftist but before everything else, I am a law student and its the law that I’d favour than my political ideology.
People are opposed to the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges which can be done away with, once his counsel is able to convince the court during the stage of framing of charges that there was no intention to cause disturbance and that the offence of sedition is not complete, then he is free to go.
Please understand that this article is NOT saying that Kanhaiya should be convicted of sedition but is only justifying his arrest on legal grounds. And arrest of a person committing a cognizable offence is made when a prima facie case is made against him (that the offence looks to have been committed). After the chargesheet is presented to the Court it is for the Hon’ble court to decide whether charges need to be framed or not.
People are quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s views about sedition and Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ideology against this section, but what we do not understand is that their statements were made  6 decades ago, in a scenario that is not what today’s situation is like.
Mr. Soli Sorabjee criticised and called the slapping of the charges against Kanhaiya Kumar as deplorable. The reason behind his analogy has been that ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans are not something Anti-National and his comments are exactly the line that the defence lawyers would and are supposed to take to prove Kanhaiya’s innocence, but that still doesn’t take away the grounds on which he has been arrested.
Of course, I absolutely condemn the beating up of the students and journalists because something like that is principally wrong but raising slogans that offend the idea of the ‘Bharat’ that many outside JNU have grown to know is not fair either. But, The raising of the slogans still doesn’t justify getting beaten up by people that too at a judicial setting.

I’d again like to reiterate that Raising inflammatory slogans apart from everything else covers the action of JNU students under the ambit of S. 124 A of the Indian Penal Code.
Many have been terming their action right by saying that by arresting students the government is trying to curb the freedom of speech and is trying to instil fear in the minds of the students, but the fact of the matter is that there has been NO arrest made for the fact that students were dissenting or held contrary views, the arrests were made on the grounds of Anti-India and Anti-National slogans raised by them. There is NO iota of doubt that statements like ‘Bharat ki barbadi’ and ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ by the students of JNU were against the idea of India as a whole.
There is freedom of speech but people should understand the concept of reasonable restrictions and shouldn’t use arguments to portray the issue according to the principles that suit them.

JNU has been known for its active and meaningful politics and that shouldn’t be lost in the bravado of wanting to bring a revolution in issues not completely understood by them.

The write up was submitted by Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary.

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