Sedition law: Supreme Court stays all pending cases; asks Centre, states to refrain from filing FIRs

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Sedition law: supreme court stays all pending cases; asks centre, states to refrain from filing firs

Supreme Court of India: ANI

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In a historic order, the Supreme Court has put a stay on pending proceeding of sedition cases and has asked the Centre and states to refrain from registering any FIR invoking sedition charges till further re-examination is over.

“All pending cases, appeals and proceedings with respect to charges framed for sedition should be kept in abeyance,” the apex court said.

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“We expect that till re-examination of this law is complete it will not be used,” the CJI NV Ramana-led Bench of the SC said, reports LiveLaw.

Earlier in the day, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the apex court, which is hearing the sedition law case, that the Centre has prepared a draft for the reconsideration of the law. The draft states that an FIR will be registered with sedition charges only if a police officer of the rank of SP says there is a valid reason for the same.

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SG Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre, told SC that as far as pending sedition cases are concerned, gravity of each case is not known, maybe there is a terror angle, or money laundering. Ultimately, the pending cases are before judicial forum, and we need to trust the courts, reports NDTV.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday had sought the Centre’s stand on keeping the pending sedition cases in abeyance to protect the interests of citizens already booked and not registering fresh cases till the government’s re-examination of the colonial-era penal law is over. It wanted a response today.

Asking the Centre to take a clear stand after it posed the two specific queries, the top court agreed that a re-look of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code(IPC) be left to the government, a day after it had filed an affidavit deciding to reconsider the contentious provision.

The court, however, expressed concern over the continuous abuse of the provision and even suggested that guidelines may be issued to stop the abuse or a decision to keep the sedition law in abeyance till the review exercise is completed.

The Centre’s affidavit had said it has decided to “re-examine and re-consider” the sedition law by an appropriate forum, in a change of stance just two days after stoutly defending this law, and also urged the Supreme Court not to “invest time” in examining its validity once again.

The top court, which was to decide whether a three or five-judge bench should hear the batch of pleas challenging the validity of the sedition law, took note of the fresh stand of the government.

Quoting the latest affidavit, which also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s views on issues like shedding of colonial baggage, protection of civil liberties, and respect of human rights, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said, What we feel is that the State has said they want to do something. We should not be unreasonable.

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said our specific query is on two issues. One is about the pending cases and the second is, how the government will take care of future cases till the reconsideration. These are the two issues.

A total 356 cases of sedition–as defined under Section 124A of IPC–were registered and 548 persons arrested between 2015 and 2020, according to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). However, just 12 persons arrested in seven sedition cases were convicted in this six-year period.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, opposed the Centre’s response saying the top court cannot be asked to stop hearing a constitutional challenge. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal who was representing the petitioners was arguing about the misuse of sedition law when he said, “We are in post-constitution era. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said that this provision is obnoxious and the sooner we get rid of sedition the better.”

With PTI inputs

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