New Delhi, May 11: The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre to review the sedition law. A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana has stayed the registration of fresh cases under sedition for the time being. The court will hear in the third week of July.
The court said that if a case is registered against anyone, then seek relief from the lower court. The court has ordered a stay on the proceedings in the pending cases. The court has said that the people in jail should file a bail petition in the lower court.
The Central Government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that it has decided to re-examine and reconsider Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is applicable in the case of sedition.
The central government, through an affidavit, had said that different views have been publicly expressed on behalf of various jurists, academicians, intellectuals and citizens in general regarding this provision.
The Central Government has said that it is in line with the Prime Minister’s belief that it has been 75 years since our country got independence; he wants to work towards removing his colonial perception. In this spirit, the central government has abolished more than 1500 old laws in 2014-15. The central government has also abolished more than 25,000 compliance awareness, which were creating unnecessary hurdles for the people of our country. Various types of offenses which were obstructing the people without thinking have been taken out of the category of crime.
The court had said on May 5 that it would first consider whether to refer the matter to the Constitution Bench or not.
During the hearing on July 15, 2021, Chief Justice NV Ramana asked the central government whether there was a need for a law like sedition even after 75 years of independence. The Chief Justice had said that once the British power used this law to suppress the voice of freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak. Is there a need for sedition law even after 75 years of independence?
During the hearing, the Chief Justice had said that the number of those convicted in sedition is very less, but if the police or the government wants, they can implicate anyone through this. All these need to be considered.
The petition has been filed by retired Army Major General SG Bombatkare.
During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal on behalf of the Central Government had said that the sedition law should not be withdrawn. Rather, if the court wants, it can issue new strict guidelines so that this law can be used only in the national interest.
Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, during the hearing on July 12, 2021, on petitions filed by Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Chhattisgarh journalist Kanhaiyalal Shukla against the sedition law, sought time to file their replies.
Advocate Tanima Kishor, appearing for the petitioner, has said that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code violates Article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution. This section is a violation of the right of all citizens to freedom of speech and expression.
It has been said in the petition that in the case of Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar in 1962, the Supreme Court may have upheld the validity of the law, but now after a lapse of sixty years, this law does not pass on the constitutional test today.
It has been said in the petition that India calls itself a democracy in the whole democratic world. Britain, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda have declared sedition undemocratic.
The petition states that both the petitioners are vocal and responsible journalists. They raise questions on the respective state governments and the central government. FIRs have been registered against both of them under sections of sedition under section 124A for sharing cartoons on social media.