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Sedition law put on hold! Supreme Court stays proceedings under Sec 124A till Centre re-examines provisions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put on hold the sedition law, ordering stay on all the pending cases and proceedings with respect to charges framed under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put in abeyance the sedition law, ordering a stay on all the pending cases and proceedings with respect to charges framed under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The top court also said that those facing sedition charges can approach courts for bail and advised courts to dispose of them in a speedy manner. 

“All pending cases, appeals and proceedings with respect to charges framed under Section 124A be kept in abeyance. Adjudication with respect to other sections may proceed with no prejudice be caused to the accused,” the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice N V Ramana was quoted by Live Law as saying.

The top court also urged Centre and states to restrain from registering fresh cases under the penal provision of the sedition law, till the re-examination of the colonial-era law is completed by the central government. This came after the Centre informed the bench that ordering a stay on the provisions of sedition law, upheld by the Constitution, “may not be the correct approach”. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said: “A cognisable offence cannot be prevented from being registered, staying the effect may not be a correct approach and therefore, there has to be a responsible officer for scrutiny, and his satisfaction is subject to judicial review.”

“As far as pending sedition cases are concerned, the gravity of each case is not known, maybe there is a terror angle or money laundering. Ultimately, the pending cases are before the judicial forum, and we need to trust the courts,” the Solicitor General added.

“The government proposes to the Supreme Court that a police officer of the level of Superintendent or above should decide, for now, on whether a sedition charge should be filed in future FIRs,” he told the top court. 

On Tuesday, the top court 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.

Asking the Centre to take a clear stand after it posed the two specific queries, the top court had on Tuesday agreed that a relook at Section 124A of the 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 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 seven-judge bench should hear the batch of pleas challenging the validity of the sedition law, took note of the fresh stand of the government.

The bench said that even in the 1962 judgement in the Kedar Nath Singh case, which had upheld the validity of the sedition law, the provision was “melted down” but at ground level local police are operating.

“Unless you issue a direction that you are reconsidering the provision and no cases be registered. They will not act.” 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.

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