The Supreme Court on 11 May, stayed the use of the sedition law and directed the union government and states to not register any fresh FIRs invoking sedition charges until the law is reviewed. In the pending sedition cases, the Supreme Court said those languishing in jail under sedition charges can approach the courts and seek bail.
“We expect that till re-examination of this law is complete it will not be used,” the CJI NV Ramana-led Bench of the Supreme Court said. The court said, “Those already booked under Section 124A IPC and are in jail could approach competent courts for appropriate relief and bail.”
The Supreme Court said, “It is clear that the Centre agrees that the rigours of Section 124A is not in tune with the current situation and it was intended for the time when the country was under colonial law. Thus, the Centre may reconsider it.”
Sedition is dealt with by the law under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
This is the first time since it’s inception that the provision of Section 124A has been suspended. The courts said the sedition law provision would remain suspended indefinitely and till further orders from the court. Also, the Supreme Court said that the Union government is free to issue additional directions to states.
Earlier in the day, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court, which is hearing the sedition law case, that the union government 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.
On 10 May, Tushar Mehta had told the Supreme Court that the union government was in the process of reconsidering the sedition law.
Mehta argued: “Where there is a cognizable offence, the Constitutional court staying the [probe] order is not appropriate. Let scrutiny be done by a responsible senior officer under judicial authority.”
Speaking about the pending cases concerning the invocation of sedition law, he said: “This is a cognizable offence. We don’t know the gravity of each pending offence. There could be terrorism, money laundering or any other offence.”
“The cases are pending with the judicial officer and not the police. What this court can consider doing is that when a bail application is filed, the court can expedite the process. But to stay the provision will not be appropriate,” Mehta said.
Responding to Kapil Sibal, who was appearing on behalf of the petitioner, to seek the court’s directions on pending cases, Mehta said that the court passing an interim order on a cognizable offence at the behest of third parties in a PIL will set a bad precedent.
CJI Ramana said: “The prima facie opinion of this court that Section 124 was imposed when India was under colonial rule. The Centre said it would reconsider the law and protect civil rights of the citizens of India. There is a misuse of the law. The AG had also given instances of such misuse.”
“The state and central governments should refrain from filing any FIR and conducting any proceedings under Section 124A,” he said.
Staying the invocation of sedition charges till the law is re-examined, the SC posted the matter for hearing in the third week of July.