Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar - Synopsis
Ahir Mitra 21 Jun 2021

Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar.

1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Sulp. (2) 769.

 The Supreme Court has evaluated the validity of the sedition legislation under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code and the basic right to free expression under Article 19 of the constitution for the first time in the country's history. In the security of the state and public order, a contested legal issue about the constitutional validity of sections 124A and 505 of the IPC are typically left for a court to resolve.

While this provision of the IPC deals with judicial history, the court had to deal with a clear conflict with Section 124A, which dealt with the same problem. While one of the decisions was issued by the Federal Court, the other was issued by the Privy Council. In the case of Niharendu Dutt Majumdar vs. The King[1], the Federal Court ruled that the provision falls within the scope of reasonable and legitimate legislative restrictions on the basic right to freedom of speech and expression.

The Privy Council decided in King-Emperor vs. Sadashiv Narayan Bhalerao[2], that the challenged provisions are liable to be invalidated as unconstitutional in light of Article 19(1) (a) read in conjunction with Article 19(1) (b) (2). The case stemmed from Kedar Nath Singh's harsh language. He was a member of the Forward Communist Party of Bihar, and he was the one who brought the dogs to the C.I.D. and the goondas to the Indian National Congress. He also stated that he believes in a revolution in which the capitalists, zamindars, and Congress leaders of India, who have made it a profession to plunder the nation would be turned to ashes, and a government of the poor, and therefore the oppressed people of India will be formed on their ashes.

He also went after Vinobha Bhave's efforts to redistribute land. On the basis of his statement, a case was brought against Kedar Nath Singh under Section 124A Sedition and Section 505 Public Nuisance, and he was sentenced to one year of severe jail. The case was heard at the Patna High Court by a single judge bench led by Justice Naqui Imam, who affirmed the sentence and dismissed the appeal. The case was also taken to the Supreme Court to determine the constitutional validity of Sections 124A and 505 of the IPC, and the case was referred to a constitution bench.

In light of Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2) of the Constitution, are Sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code extra vires, is it necessary to have the aim or inclination to cause unrest, disturbance of law and order, or encouragement to violence in order to commit sedition.

A bench comprising magistrate B.P. Sinha and Justices A.K. Sarkar, J.R. Mudholkar, N. Rajagopala Ayyangar, and S.K. Das delivered the Court's decision. The restriction on the correct freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the constitution, according to the court. The court did note, however, that appropriate limits were placed on some reasons, such as "public order." A restriction is constitutionally permissible if it complies with Article 19(2). The Court clarified that the phrase "government established by law" in section 124A should not be confused with criticism of a specific party or individuals.

The Court ruled that the title of the relevant section of the Indian penal code, "Offenses against the State," supports this interpretation. The court went on to say that the state must preserve vital peace and stability and that the assertions in section 124A would disrupt this. The court also determined that the crime of sedition is committed when the statements said to have the propensity or purpose to cause disturbance or disrupt public peace through the use of violence. Because the State may restrict speech for the purpose of maintaining public order, this can be a reasonable restriction on the right to freedom of expression.

The court goes on to say that any statement that spreads discontent or hatred without causing any breach of the government's authority might be illegal. A statute must be read in light of the wrongdoing it attempts to remedy as well as its legislative history. Furthermore, the Court found Section 505 to be legally legitimate; it was a low-cost restriction on the right to freedom of expression in the purpose of maintaining public order. The appeals were dismissed, and the cases were remanded to the High Courts to be decided in accordance with the Court's instructions.

The constitutionality of Section 124-A was upheld by a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, although it was clarified that a person can be prosecuted with sedition only if his speech or writing incites violence or if he has the aim or propensity to cause unrest or disturbance of law and order.

[1] (1942) F.C.R. 38.

[2] I.L.R. (1947).


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