SC puts on hold sedition law, trials
New Delhi, May 11: The Supreme Court on Wednesday paused the sedition law until it has been re-examined by the Centre. The court said that those already charged can seek bail before the court.
A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli said that the Centre shall be at liberty to issue directives proposed and place before the Supreme Court to states and union territories to prevent misuse of sec 124 A.
The apex court said that if any fresh case is listed under Section 124A, the accused can approach the courts concerned for reliefs, on which courts will provide relief taking into account this order of the Supreme Court as well as the stand taken by the Union to reconsider the law due to glaring abuse of it.
The above directions to continue till further orders.
"We hope and expect Centre and state governments will refrain from registering any FIR, continuing investigation, or taking coercive steps under 124 A IPC when its under reconsideration," the Chief Justice of India said while dictating the order.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that a cognizable offence cannot be prevented from being registered, staying the effect may not be a correct approach and therefore, there has to be a responsible officer for scrutiny, and his satisfaction is subject to judicial review.
"As far as pending sedition cases are concerned, the gravity of each case is not known, maybe there is a terror angle, or money laundering. Ultimately, the pending cases are before the judicial forum, and we need to trust the courts," SG Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, informed the Supreme Court.
The Centre on Wednesday filed its reply on the Sedition review issue before the Supreme Court, which is seeking a bunch of petitions seeking to validate the constitutionality of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealing with sedition.
The apex court on Tuesday agreed that the re-look of the provision be left to the Centre , but expressed concern over the continuous abuse of the provision while suggesting that guidelines may be issued to stop the abuse or a decision to keep the law at abeyance till the exercise of re-look of the law is completed.
"We will give you time till tomorrow morning to take instructions from the government. Our concern is pending cases and future cases, how the government will take care of those till it re-examines the law," Chief Justice NV Ramana said, according to NDTV.
The Centre Monday told the Supreme Court not to invest time in examining the validity of sedition law as it has decided to go for re-consideration of the provisions by a competent forum. The Centre also said it was cognisant of various views, and concerns about civil liberties while being committed to protecting the sovereignty and integrity of this great nation.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in an affidavit, referred to the views of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on shedding the colonial baggage and said he has been in favour of the protection of civil liberties and respect of human rights, and in that spirit, has scrapped over 1,500 outdated laws and over 25,000 compliance burdens.
On July 15, 2021, concerned over "enormous misuse" of the colonial era penal law on sedition, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to "silence" people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress freedom movement. Agreeing to examine the pleas filed by the Editors Guild of India and a former major general, challenging the constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, a bench headed by the then Chief Justice N V Ramana had said its main concern was the "misuse of law" leading to rise in number of cases.
The non-bailable provision makes any speech or expression that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.