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Punishment for Offence against State (Section:- 121 of IPC)

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with offences against the State under Chapter VI (Section 121 to Section 130). Punishment for Offence against State..

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with offences against the State under Chapter VI (Section 121 to Section 130). The purpose of these codes is to ensure the safety of the State as a whole. The existence of the State can be safeguarded by giving severe punishments in case of offences against the State such as life imprisonment or the death penalty. Offences against the State as well as the government to disturb the public tranquility, public order and national integration.

Section 121 IPC Explained

The 26/11 attacks drove the country into shock. It was one of the most aggressive acts of terrorism in the history of independent India. The mad massacre claimed many lives, including that of the gunmen, save just one. The trial and subsequent conviction of the lone surviving gunman allowed the Judiciary to delve deep inside Section 121 IPC.

There can be none better than the Judiciary to explain a legal concept and offer clarity in understanding it. Let us, therefore, try to understand how the Division Bench explained the Section regarding waging war against the State.

In the instant case, the appellant’s heinous acts of terrorism had earned him five death penalties and life sentences each. One of the major charges against him was “waging, and abetting the waging of war against the Government of India”. The Bench upheld his conviction, the President denied his plea for mercy and he was eventually hanged for his crimes.

The advocate for the appellant had sought to rescue him from the charge of “waging war”. This was since the High Court had considered it to be the principal reason for awarding the death sentence. The advocate pleaded that an act of “waging war” should challenge the sovereign authority of the Government of India. He submitted that the actions of the surviving gunman could not amount to “waging war”.

Government of India

Naturally, the Apex Court observed that the Section uses the term Government of India instead of “Republic of India”. So, what does “Government of India” entail? Consequently, the Court decided to find out.

It said that in a narrower sense, this term involved simply the executive wing of the State. It comprises the administrative bureaucracy controlling the powers and executive functions of the State. Various Governments, help discharge these duties and functions by serving the State. However, the considered view of the Bench concluded that the meaning could not be this narrow.

They opined that the term “Government of India” implies:

  • India as a State,
  • The Juristic embodiment of India’s sovereignty, and
  • The collective will and consent of the people of India

Hence, “Government of India” signifies the notion of sovereignty which lies enshrined in Public International Law. It must indicate the State or the people of the country who make the country a sovereign. Sovereignty manifests through the will and expression of the citizens of this democracy who ultimately elects their Government.

Waging war

Waging war is an attempt to fulfil any purpose of public nature through violence. It occurs when several people assemble and rise against the state to attain any object of general nature by force or violence. To commit an offence against the state, the purpose and the intention are taken into consideration and not be murdered or forced.

Sections 121 to 123 of the Indian Penal Code deal with waging war against the government. The following are considered as offences that need to be proven to constitute an offence against the government under Section 121:

  • Wage war
  • Attempted to wage a war
  • Abetted the waging of war

The preparation of war against the government lies under Section 122 of the Indian Penal code, and the essentials are:

  • The confiscation of arms or men from the accused person
  • Getting ready to wage war against the state or government
  • A war must be started against the state

Section 123 deals with the secrecy of design to wage war, and the essentials of Section 123 are:

  • Proof of a method or design that is prepared in order to wage war against the government.
  • The act should be done in secrecy to start the war.
  • The person should be aware of the secrecy or the design of the war.

Section 124-A deals with sedition. Sedition is the attempt made by meetings, speeches, or publications to disturb the state’s peace, which does not amount to treason. As per Section 124-A, the following are the two essentials of sedition:

  • Bringing or attempting to get hatred or disaffection towards the government established by law in India.
  • Such acts or attempts can be carried out by words, science, or visible representation.

The punishment for sedition under Section 124-A is life imprisonment, to which the state can also add a fine, or imprisonment up to 3 years to which a fine can be added, or with only a fine.

Waging war against a power

Waging war against or attacking any Asiatic Power in union with the Government of India lies under Section 125 in the Indian Penal Code. In this scenario, the accused person should have waged war against the state or provoked the waging of war. The punishment for anyone violating this section is life imprisonment, or imprisonment for seven years, or a fine in some cases. The essentials of Section 125 are:

  • An Asiatic state with an international influence.
  • This state should be other than India.
  • The state should be in alliance with the Government of India.


The dissections mentioned above play an essential and crucial role in regulating and maintaining public order regarding offences against the state. The people are free and have the right to criticise the government’s policies or lists, but they cannot and should not misuse their liberty to cause any harm to the people around them or the government. Waging war against the state or government is a punishable offence, and these sections also protect the high officials, such as the president as well as the governor of every state.

FAQs about Offences Against the State under Indian Penal Code (IPC):
What is the purpose of the chapters dealing with Offences Against the State in the IPC?

The purpose of these chapters (Chapter VI: Section 121 to Section 130) is to safeguard the safety of the State as a whole. They aim to deter and punish acts that threaten the existence of the State, disturb public tranquility, public order, and national integration. Severe punishments, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, are prescribed to address such offences.

What is Section 121 IPC, and what does it deal with?

Section 121 IPC deals with the offence of “waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India.” It criminalizes acts of violence or attempts to use force to challenge the sovereignty of India and the collective will of its people.

What does the term “Government of India” entail in Section 121 IPC?

The term “Government of India” in Section 121 IPC refers not only to the executive wing of the State but also signifies India as a State, its sovereignty, and the collective will and consent of the people of India.

What constitutes “waging war” under Sections 121 to 123 of the IPC?

“Waging war” involves attempting to fulfill any purpose of a public nature through violence. It occurs when a group of individuals assembles and rises against the State with the aim of achieving a general objective by force or violence.

What are the essentials of Sections 121 to 123 of the IPC regarding offences against the government?

The essentials to constitute an offence against the government under these sections include:
Waging war against the government
Attempting to wage war against the government
Abetting the waging of war against the government

Read also:- Indian Penal Code (IPC) Few Important Sections, Crimes and Punishment

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