The Case of Kedarnath vs State of Bihar (1962)

July 11, 2024

The antiquated ideals of the colonial era are where the crime of sedition originated. Few of the harsh laws that our ancestors had to deal with were as contentious as those pertaining to sedition, even though they were inherited from the British. It was a useful instrument in British India to limit the freedom of speech of people who were subject to the government. British law is the source of sedition; it was designed to stop anyone from criticizing the monarchy or from prosecuting anyone who spread hate or unrest against it.

kedarnath vs state of bihar Case Facts

  • The then-ruling Congress Government was chastised by revolutionary leader Kedarnath.
  • A complaint was brought against him based on the language he used and the statement he made, alleging section 124 a ipc, Sedition, and section 505 of Indian penal code, Public Mischief. As a result, he was sentenced to one year of harsh jail.
  • Following a hearing on his case, the High Court in Patna dismissed the appeal and upheld the conviction.
  • Consequently, he filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that article 19 of the indian constitution, 1950 violated his basic right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • Additionally, they argued that the Indian Penal Code’s Sedition Clause violates the 1950 Constitution.

kedarnath vs state of bihar Issues

  • With reference to Article 19(1)(a) read in conjunction with Article 19(2) of the Constitution, are section 124 a ipc and section 505 of indian penal code considered ultra vires?
  • Whether the act of inciting violence, disrupting law and order, or intending to cause chaos is necessary to qualify as a sedition offense?

Contentions by the Parties


  • The appellant’s attorney, Janardan Sharma, claimed that because section 124a of the indian penal code violates Article 19(1)(a), it is beyond the bounds of the Constitution.
  • He argued that sedition served as a useful instrument for prosecuting people for making speeches that were either legal or illegal.
  • He made the case that every citizen in a democracy has the unalienable right to critique their government and demand reforms.


  • Respondent’s attorney, Gopal Behari, said that a desire to disrupt public order is not always included in the interpretation of English law. He maintained that since the Privy Council’s view was upheld by numerous High Courts, it ought to be applied in this particular instance.
  • He concurred that any prosecution under section 124a of the indian penal code for any speech that does not cause public disorder violates Article 19(1)(a).
  • These cases also fall beyond the purview of 19(2) because it is not in the public interest to impose limits on these utterances. He argued that the section could not be changed by the court to exclude speeches that do not intend to disrupt public order; rather, the section must pass or fail completely.

kedarnath vs state of bihar Judgment

  • Regarding the first problem, the Supreme Court ruled that maintaining law and order is a fundamental factor for the security of the state, and that this means penalizing those who commit crimes against the state.
  • The freedom of speech and expression should be completely protected in a democratic country, but certain limitations are required to ensure the security and stability of the government.
  • As a result, the Supreme Court determined that Sections 124A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code were within the bounds of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Regarding the second issue, the court found that the Privy Council’s interpretation that the crime of sedition can be committed even in the absence of a tendency toward disorder or an intention to disturb law and order by using words that merely incite dissatisfaction or enmity toward the government is in conflict with the court’s holding. Such an interpretation would render the sections unconstitutional in light of Art. 19(1)(a) read in conjunction with clause (2).
  • Consequently, the Federal Court’s interpretation was accepted, and the Section was provided with a restrictive interpretation. This interpretation stated that the main offense of sedition is inciting violence or having the tendency or intention to cause public disturbances through words spoken or written that have the potential to incite hatred or contempt toward the legally established government or to cause disaffection in the sense of betraying the state.

According to the Supreme Court, section 124a ipc cannot be read literally and must instead be construed by judges. For this reason, two elements are required to prove sedition:

  • The acts that are being complained of must be designed to have the effect of violently overthrowing the government;
  • Additionally, the acts must be violently inclined and intended to upset public order, public peace, or law and order.

Undoubtedly, the ruling sets a solid precedent for future cases since it upholds each person’s right to freedom without jeopardizing national security, which ought to be the primary goal of any state. The court correctly noted that while section 124a ipc is lawful, its reach must be limited because failing to do so would call into question basic rights.

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