Offences against the state
Relevant overseas statutory provisions


The following analysis sets out statutory provisions found in the laws of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India connected to the topic of treason, secession, sedition and subversion.


Part II of the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914 (as amended) is headed "Offences against the Government" and creates a number of offences including treason (s. 24), sedition (ss. 24 A-E), treachery (s. 24 AA) and sabotage (s. 24 AB). Treason includes: killing or wounding the sovereign, levying war against the Commonwealth of Australia, and assisting an enemy at war with Commonwealth of Australia.

Under s. 24 AA it is treachery to, among other things, "do any act or thing with intent -

  1. to overthrow the constitution of the Commonwealth by revolution or sabotage; or
  2. to overthrow by force or violence the established Government of the Commonwealth, of a state or of a proclaimed country".

Under s. 24 AB an "act of sabotage" is defined as "the destruction, damage or impairment, for a purpose intended to be prejudicial to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth of", among other things, property connected with defence of the Commonwealth.

There are no specific statutory offences of "secession" or "subversion".


Part II of the Canadian Criminal Code is headed "Offences against Public Order and includes Treason (ss. 46-50), sabotage (s. 52), incitement to mutiny (s. 53) and sedition (ss. 59-61). It also includes an offence of intimidating Parliament or the legislature of a province by an act of violence (s. 51).

Under s. 46(2) of the Code, a person commits treason if among other things, he

"uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Canada or a province".

"Sabotage" means doing a prohibited act (in general terms damage) for a purpose prejudicial to the safety, security or defence of Canada.

In connection with "seditious intention" s. 59(4) states:

"everyone shall be presumed to have a seditious intention who

  1. teaches or advocates, or
  2. publishes or circulates any writing that advocates,

the use without the authority of law, of force as a means of accomplishing a governmental change within Canada."

It is expressly stated that this subsection is not an exhaustive definition of "seditious intention". That concept was fully discussed in the leading Canadian case of Boucher and The King [1951] SCR 265.

There is no specific statutory offence of "secession" or "subversion".

New Zealand

Part V Crimes Act 1961 covers Crimes against Public Order including treason (ss. 73-76), sabotage (s. 79) and sedition (ss. 80-85).

Under s. 73 of the Act, treason includes to kill or wound the sovereign, to levy war against New Zealand, to assist an enemy at war with New Zealand and to use "force for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of New Zealand".

Under s. 79 of the Act sabotage is defined in similar fashion to the Canadian Criminal Code s. 52.


Part VI of the Indian Penal Code deals with "Offences against the State". These include:

  1. preparation, conspiracy and actual waging of war against the Government of India (ss. 121, 122 and 123)

  2. "conspiring to overawe by means of criminal force or show of criminal force the Central Government or any State Government (s. 121A).

  3. incitement to disaffection, known more commonly as sedition, though that term is not included in the words of the section (s. 124A).

  4. waging war against an Asiatic ally (ss. 125, 126 and 127).

There are no specific offences of secession or subversion.


Pakistan does have provision in its Penal Code prohibiting activity promoting the breakaway of any part of Pakistan for the purpose of union with a neighbouring state (in effect secession).

Last Updated on 14 Jun, 1997