New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stayed the country’s colonial-era sedition law after the Centre’s u-turn in the last hearing. The Centre had argued against it saying it can’t be stayed based on just a few Public Interest Litigations (PIL).
Here’s your 5-point cheatsheet in this big story:
In a historic decision, the Supreme Court today ordered a stay on all pending sedition cases and advised the police and administration to not use this section of the law until the Centre finishes its review. “It is clear that Centre agrees that rigours of section 124a are not in tune with the current situation and it was intended for the time when the country was under colonial law. Thus centre may reconsider it…The court is to balance civil liberty and sovereignty of the state. This is a difficult exercise,” the Chief Justice of India NV Ramanna said.
“The Union of India is at liberty to pass directives to states to prevent misuse of the law,” the Chief Justice of India said. “It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law till further reexamination is over. We hope and expect that centre and state will desist from registering any FIR under 124a or initiate a proceeding under the same till reexamination is over,” It said.
“The Union of India will reconsider the law. The petitioners say the law is being misused. The Attorney General had also mentioned the sedition charge filed in the Hanuman Chalisa case,” said Chief Justice NV Ramana. “If any fresh cases are filed, concerned parties may approach court and court to expeditiously dispose of the same,” he added.
The Centre proposed that future FIRs under Section 124A IPC (sedition charge) be registered only after scrutiny by a Superintendent of Police level official or above. On pending cases, courts can be directed to expeditiously consider bail, it said. “There are over 800 cases of sedition filed across India. 13,000 people are in jail,” senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, said. He argued for the law to be scrapped.
After firmly defending the country’s colonial-era sedition law and asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the pleas challenging it, the government on Monday did an about-face, saying it has decided to review the legislation. According to government sources, the move came based on instructions from PM Modi himself.