The Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1911 was legislated on 31st March, 1911. The Act prior to Amendment extended to whole of India except for the Part B states in India but shall be extended to any of such states by notification in the official gazette. The Act aimed at preventing seditious or provocative meetings in any part of India. The 1911 Act holds its roots to the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1907 passed in 1907 by Britishers enabling the government to prohibit any unauthorized political meeting by more than twenty persons. The British Act specifically applied to ‘proclaimed areas’. Proclaimed areas were certain areas specifically designated by governor general. The Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1907 replaced by the Act of 1911.
The term public meetings are defined under section 3 of the Act as a meeting open to public or any portion of public. A meeting in a private place it shall be deemed to be public meeting incase admission to it restricted by tickets.
The Act empowers State Government to notify an area as ‘proclaimed area’ by a notifying such area in official gazette. Area elected as proclaimed area shall be declared either in whole or in part. Notification once issued shall be valid for six months however the time may be extended in case the government deems fit.
The Act makes it compulsory that no seditious public meeting shall be held in proclaimed areas without giving a prior notice under section 4. The section lays that no public meeting seditious in nature likely to cause disturbance or violence shall be conducted in absence of a written notice to hold such meetings. The notice shall be given to District Magistrate or Commissioner of Police atleast three days prior to holding of such meeting. The District Magistrate of Commissioner of Police shall give permission to hold meeting in writing and also one police officer not below the rank of head constable shall be deputed to attend such meetings who shall give report of proceedings. The act shall not apply in cases where the meeting is held under orders of a legal authority or by orders of State Government.
The act under section 5 empowers the district magistrate and commissioner of Police to prevent such public meetings incase they are of the opinion that holding of a meeting shall lead to violence or public disturbance of any nature.
The Act also lays penalties for acts in contravention to the Provisions of the Act. Any person who conducts seditious meetings in proclaimed area in absence of permission from District Magistrate or Commissioner of police shall be punished with imprisonment extending top six months or fine or with both. Public meeting prohibited in lieu of section 5 of the Act shall be unlawful assembly under Chapter VIII of the Indian Penal Code and of Chapter IX of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.
Whoever delivers a seditious speech in public place or in proclaimed area otherwise than the public meetings or speeches held in consonance with section 4 of the Act i.e without the permission in writing of the Magistrate of the district or of the Commissioner of police shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both. The acts committed under the act shall be tried by no Court inferior to that of Presidency Magistrate or Magistrate of the first class or Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
Thus the Act is an important piece of legislation which prohibits seditious speeches and meetings capable of inciting violence in public areas. Such seditious meeting are not only a threat to unity and integrity of the nation but are also a threat to peace by causing social violence. Since the Act was drafted prior to independence it has the relics of the The Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1907.