More Majesty than Her Majesty

A few days ago, I had argued that India's sedition law is "clearly a colonial hangover, designed to force public submission to an absolute and 'mathematically supreme' monarch". It turns out that the British themselves probably considered Her Majesty the Queen of England as less 'mathematically supreme' than what the Government of India considers itself.

Section 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code has a long history which is partially documented in the change log of the IPC document (download here). Below, I've tried to use the change log to reconstruct the text of the section at different points in history. Note that I haven't found these texts as they appear below anywhere.

Look carefully, since the changes are not very easily visible. In a way, that's part of the problem.

1870: Section 124-A first inserted into IPC.
[Text unknown]
1898: "Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1937: "Her Majesty or the Crown Representative or the Government established by law in the States or British Burma"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty or the Crown Representative or the Government established by law in the States or British Burma, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1948: "Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty or the Government established by law in the States, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1950: "the Government established by law in the States"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in the States, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1951: "the Government established by law in India"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
1955: "imprisonment for life"
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.

Readers will note that disaffection against "the Government established by law in the States" was likely a culpable offence under the colonial British rule (during which we think the British could have bulldozed the very idea out), was retained in 1950, but dropped in 1951. Therefore, this could be evidence that British India, run by a colonial power which looted this part of the world, was more decentralized (from as early as 1898) than the Government of India is today.

The dropping of the line in 1951 was probably after, but certainly in line with, the adoption of the Constitution of India which turned the hitherto Federation of States under Her Majesty into a strong central polity under the sovereign Government of India.

Now, I'm not trying to justify the curtailment of free speech by asking for a sedition law at the state level. Everywhere in the world, and at every level of government, free speech is a fundamental human right, and must be respected as such.

I'm only trying to show that the idea of federalism which really existed under the British, was wiped out by independent India, thereby making it more 'mathematically supreme' than Her Majesty the Queen of England was when she ruled over this part of the world. And that seems to show in the career of the sedition law.

Yet another argument for federalism in India.

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