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SC puts sedition cases on hold; asks Centre, states not to file fresh FIRs

11/05/2022 at 1:33 PM

New Delhi, May 11: In a historic order, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre and states not to register any cases of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code pending an exercise to review the colonial law.

“It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law till further reexamination is over. We hope Centre and States will desist from registering any FIR under 124A or initiate proceeding under the same till reexamination is over,” a three-judge Bench led by CJI NV Ramana ordered.

“It is clear that Central Government agrees that rigours of Section 124A is not in tune with the current situation and it was intended for the time when country was under colonial law. Thus Centre may reconsider it,” said the Bench, which also included Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli.

The top court said, “If any fresh case is filed under Section 124A IPC, the accused can approach the court concerned for reliefs.”

It said courts will provide relief to such accused taking into account its order as also the stand taken by the Centre to reconsider the law due to its glaring abuse.

Noting that the Union of India was at liberty to issue a directive, the Bench said its order shall remain in force until further orders and posted the matter for further hearing in the third week of July.

During the hearing, the Centre had opposed the suggestion to stay the operation of the sedition law under Section 124A IPC. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta instead proposed that future FIRs under Section 124A IPC will be filed only after scrutiny by the Superintendent of Police in pending cases courts can be directed to expeditiously consider bail. On behalf of the petitioners, senior advocate Kapil Sibal opposed Mehta’s argument, terming it “wholly unacceptable”.

But the Bench, which had on Tuesday asked the Centre to clarify if all sedition cases filed across India could be kept in abeyance till the review of Section 124A of the IPC was completed, didn’t agree with Mehta’s submission. “It would be appropriate to put the provision on abeyance,” the top court said.

Section 124A says a person commits the crime of sedition, if he/she brings or attempts to bring in hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in India. It can be by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise. It prescribes the maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

The law on sedition was not there in the original IPC, which came into force in 1862. It was added to the Code in 1870 and its ambit was expanded in 1898 with a view to crush the freedom movement.

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