SEDITION AND STAND UP COMEDY
Author: Srishti Pattnaik, III year of B.A.,LL.B. from KIIT University, School of Law, Bhubaneswar
Co-author: Swastika Mukherjee, III year of B.B.A.,LL.B. from KIIT University, School of Law, Bhubaneswar
This paper deals with the various aspects of humour, sedition and their relation cum dependence on each other. As Justice Sachs said in the Laugh It Off case: “A society that takes itself too seriously risks bottling up its tensions and treating every example of irreverence as a threat to its existence. Humour is one of the great solvents of democracy. It allows the contradictions of public life to be described in non-violent forms.” This is a very apt example of what we have tried to cover in this paper which starts with an introduction of our topic followed by basic article explanations, then going on to the link between liberty and comedy and then adding it all up in a chart with both positive and negative aspects of both. Lastly, there are some suggestions from the authors to bring about certain changes in the ongoing system and finally the conclusion!
Legislation has not only acted as a combatant whenever any act has intended to subvert and lower the integrity of the Government established by the Constitution but has also protected and guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression, which is the sine qua non of a democratic form of Government. Humour being no respecter of persons is entertaining to some while displeasing or abusive to others. In the recent era, with the emergence of social and political maneuverings, stand-up comedy has eventually become one of the root causes through which sedition has paved its way. At this juncture, the question arises as to what extent can this type of humour act as an amusement to people at large without bringing in dissatisfaction? The researcher’s in the subsequent parts have dealt with the issue suggesting certain solutions.
BASIC ARTICLE EXPLANATIONS
The Constitution has embodied upon us, citizens, some very great and meaningful rights so that we can exercise them freely without a scope of hesitation and sense of danger if any. One of these many important articles is Article 19 of the Constitution of India, it guarantees the citizens the ‘freedom of speech and expression’. The primary motive is to protect the freedom of speech and to see whether each individual can express himself/herself freely or not. Now, Article 21 of the Constitution ‘prevents encroachment upon personal liberty and deprivation of life subject to exceptions established by law’. This is the very essence of a citizen’s well-being and this is where all the other rights revolve. Lastly, ‘exciting or an attempt to excite a feeling of dissatisfaction for the Government’ is what defines Section 124A of the IPC, 1860. The question that arises here is, whether mere expressing of individualistic thoughts amounts to exciting anti-national feelings!
COMEDY WITH RESPECT TO LIBERTY
The constitution itself guarantees concessions to the people to enjoy their basic rights with freedom and therefore it is the duty of the ‘people of the sovereign body’ to uphold the spirit of the provision vested in Article 21 of the Constitution and not to disturb the tranquillity of it by any means. Comedy embodying laughter as its main ingredient has always positively stimulated an individual thereby leading to the growth of scholarly interest in stand-up comedy in recent times, which has eventually become one of the main sources of pleasant restoration to the public at large. The comedian before delivering his speech should always counterpoise his speech as he will be solely responsible for any kind of adverse effect amongst people regarding the Government. However, it is seen that some concentrating on the theories of political and social cognition, by exercising their right of freedom of speech and expression and by taking shelter in the name of comedy, have tended to attack the Government, therefore, causing urge of incitement, hatred amongst the people for the Government established by law.
Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India ‘imposes reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression for the larger interest of the public’. This should not be used as a weapon by the judiciary (judicial instrument) for their benefit. Mere expressing of views by an individual does not count as sedition until and unless it excites people against an entire body or the government as a whole. Criticizing a single individual is completely one’s right in this democratic country which we are very much free to exercise in any possible manner but turning a group of people against, let’s say, an entire political party is where the restriction comes. Humour is one of the easiest ways to criticize people and to express our thoughts, although, using humour in a negative way to incite a feeling of hatred and violence is not what the present times call for.
People, today, in the name of comedy are outbursting their aggression and confronting societal and political accuracy via their speeches and creative expressions. A citizen of a democratic country while enjoying their rights guaranteed under Article 19 should not forget that every freedom has its restrictions and they should never lower the spirit of the provision embodied in the Constitution. The freedom to offend the listener lies on the part of the comedian and it’s their responsibility to amuse the public without displeasing them. But when the question arises concerning bringing “disaffection” and “disapprobation” through any kind of seditious act or word(s) that constitute a tendency to cause public disorder or incitement to violence towards Government, Sec 124-A is then used to stifle the voice of anybody who tries to dissent. A comedian should always deliver constitutionally protected speeches because the security of the state and public order can never be compromised.
 Why humour in public discourse is necessary for social wellbeing, available at https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/in-defence-of-humour/. (last visited on 5thDec, 2020).
 The Constitution of India, art.19.
Ibid. art., art.21.
 The Indian Penal Code, (Act 45 of 1860), s. 124A.
Supra note 3.
Supra note 2.
Supra note 4.