BREAKING: Supreme Court directs to put sedition law on abeyance till further orders

  • Gautam Mishra
  • 11:56 AM, 11 May 2022

The Supreme Court today directed the 'Sedition Law' to be put on abeyance till further orders. The Court has asked the Centre and State governments not to register any cases under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and consisting of Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli noted that the Union of India may reconsider the aforesaid provision as there is a requirement to balance. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had informed the bench that the Central Government cannot prevent reporting of a cognizable offense. "However, in respect of the pending cases, bails may be decided expeditiously, passing any other order would be against the Constitution, the SG added.

Whereas Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal argued, "What difference is it going to make, they'll pass an order and Court will say that it is in the statute and we cannot do anything."

"Section was being misused, there is a judgment saying there should be no arrest, it was later only when it was made cognizable," Sibal added.

In furtherance to this, Justice Kant asked Sibal that according to the Central Government it should go onto the officer for taking a decision whether to register an FIR or not, according to you, who can be the authority?

To which Sibal responded stating, "Nobody! it should be struck down."

However, without granting a direct stay, the Court said that "we expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the Governments."

The bench opined that they are cognizant of the security interests and integrity of the State on one hand, and the civil liberties of citizens on the other. There is a requirement to balance both sets of considerations, which is a difficult exercise.

Whereas, the petitioners have argued that this provision of law dates back to 1898, pre-dates the Constitution itself, and is being misused. The Attorney General had also, on an earlier date given some instances of glaring misuse of this provision, like in the case of the recital of the Hanuman Chalisa.

The bench while directing the pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A of IPC to be kept in abeyance stated that "We hope and expect that the State and Central Governments will restrain from registering any FIR, continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the aforesaid provision of law is under consideration."

In addition to this, the Court has also penned that "If any fresh case is registered under Section 124A of IPC, the affected parties are at liberty to approach the concerned Courts for appropriate relief. The Courts are requested to examine the reliefs sought, taking into account the present order passed as well as the clear stand taken by the Union of India."

The Court has given liberty to the Central Government to issue the Directive as proposed and placed before the bench, to the State Governments, and Union Territories to prevent any misuse of Section 124A of IPC.

The Central Government in its affidavit had submitted that "being fully cognizant of various view being expressed on the subject of sedition and also having considered the concern of civil liberties and human rights, while committed to maintain and protect the sovereignty and integrity of this great nation, has decided to re-examine and re-consider the provision of section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which can only be done before the Competent Forum.

The affidavit stated that the Court may not invest time in examining the validity of Section 124A once again and be pleased to await the exercise of reconsideration to be undertaken by the Government of India before an appropriate forum where such reconsideration is constitutionally.

The Supreme Court was hearing the plea challenging the constitutional validity of the provision pertaining to Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code i.e. sedition law.

Earlier yesterday, the Supreme Court had asked the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta to take instructions as to what will be status of pending and future sedition cases during the time the Centre re-examines the validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code i.e. sedition law.

On May 5, a Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Ramana and consisting of Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said that it would, on Tuesday (May 10, 2022), consider whether the challenge to the constitutional validity of Section 124A, requires consideration by a larger bench.

In April, the Supreme Court had allowed the Central Government to file its response in a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of Section 124A which penalises the offence of Sedition and listed the matter for final round of hearing on May 5.Earlier, the Court had issued notice and had asked the petitioner to serve a copy of the petition to AG Venugopal.

Case title: S.G. VOMBATKERE Vs. UNION OF INDIAE | EDITORS GUILD OF INDIA AND ANR. Vs. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS.