Sedition and Statutory Stability: Decoding the Defects of India’s National Security Laws

This article is authored by Aman Saraf, a student at Government Law College, Mumbai. This article attempts to shed some light on the recent developments in security legislations in India.


Effective legislation to defend national security is essential for the smooth functioning of any modern democracy. However, it is equally imperative that these laws possess adequate safeguards to ensure that their implementation maintains a reasonable balance between human rights, international standards, and respect for constitutional provisions. This paper seeks to provide a brief overview of the development of national security legislation in India, while delving deeper into two specific laws – Section 124-A regarding Sedition that was introduced in 1870 in the Indian Penal Code and the National Security Act, 1980. Section 124-A has – historically and even as recently as in 2020 – led to numerous instances of misuse by authorities, creating a need to adequately review the statute. In the four decades of its operation, the exploitation of the inherent lacunae in the National Security Act has caused several human rights violations in oft-overlooked cases throughout its implementation.

This paper thus aims analyze two kinds of contentious laws – a colonial remnant of British legislation and a modern legislation intended for application in a post-Independent India. While there has been considerable legal scrutiny of these laws, the effective implementation of these judicial decisions is left wanting. This gives rise to a pertinent question – are these laws so inherently flawed so as to not only permit, but also facilitate their misuse by successive governments? The paper thus traces a brief history of these laws, analyzes the various flaws in their drafting, constitutionality and implementation and reflects on relevant judicial decisions. The author then concludes that these laws must urgently be revised to bring them up to the prevailing societal standards of the 21st Century and ensure that they are in tandem with the ever-changing principles of constitutional law.