Law of Sedition in the Era of Free Speech: A Comparative Study of India and USA

  • Thinlay Choden Bhutia
  • Show Author Details
  • Thinlay Choden Bhutia

    Advocate at Kalimpong District Court, India

  • img Download Full Paper


The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land, and thereby all legistlative and exeutive actions are required to be consistent with the constitutional provisions. Right to free speech guaranteed under Art. 19(1)(a) is the most basic, inherent and natural right which is acquired by man as soon as he is born. Thus right to freedom of speech and expression is the most basic human right, the suppression of which amounts to a gross violation of human rights and cannot be tolerated in any modern democratic system. Free speech is not always protected under all circumstances. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 imposes a restriction on the right to freedom of speech and expression of the people by criminalising any form of expression of which brings hatred or contempt or excites disaffection or even attempts to excite such emotions towards a lawfully established government in India. The punishment prescribed under this section seems rather absurd as accused under this section can be punished even with life imprisonment. This raises a question as to its efficacy in the modern democratic system. The need and relevance of this section in an independent and democratic India is endlessly debated. There have been instances of misuse of the law of sedition before and even after the independence which has led to serious concerns as to whether such a law is required in the present day. On the other hand, USA government is based on the ideals of democracy and right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment. In spite of its liberal and democratic values, the law of sedition still exists in the US till today, though the US Supreme Court has read down its scope over a period of time. The act of sedition was first made a punishable offence in US by the passing of the Sedition Act, 1798. This Act was however, later repealed in 1820. Due to the disturbed international political situation during the World War I, the law of sedition was again reintroduced in the USA in 1918. The law of sedition has survived violent criticisms from various sectors of public in both India and the United States. Both the countries are largest democracies and yet their penal law are characterised by the presence of the age old law of sedition. In this paper, the author attempts to analyse the present sedition law in the light of Article 19(1)(a) and look for answer as to whether such a law is required in the present Indian scenario with a comparative study on the law sedition existing in the United States.


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 3, Page 5659 - 5670


Creative Commons

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits remixing, adapting, and building upon the work for non-commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.


Copyright © IJLMH 2021