SC Refuses to Entertain Plea Seeking Guidelines for Sedition Cases

A PIL in the SC had sought to quash an FIR registered for sedition in Bidar over a play critical of CAA, NRC and NPR

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India
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Minors being lined up for questioning by the DSP at Shaheen Urdu Primary School in Bidar. Image used for representational purposes.
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The Supreme Court on Friday, 6 March, refused to entertain a plea seeking framing of a proper mechanism to deal with alleged misuse of the sedition law by the government machinery.

A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar dismissed the plea filed by social activist Yogita Bhayana in light of recurring cases of sedition, particularly the cases registered against the management and parents of Shaheen Urdu Primary School in Bidar, and said it was open for the petitioner to approach the appropriate authority.

A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court on 5 March had sought to quash an FIR registered for sedition in Karnataka's Bidar against a school, a teacher and a widowed parent for enacting a play critical on CAA, NRC and NPR on 21 January, and the subsequent and repeated interrogation of minors aged 9-11 years over the same.

"Let the affected party come and we will hear them. Why it should be done at your instance," the bench reportedly said, refusing to entertain the petition.

At the outset, the apex court told advocate Utsav Singh Bains, appearing for the petitioner, that he could not seek quashing of an FIR in a sedition case filed against the management of a Karnataka school for allegedly allowing students to stage an anti-CAA and anti-NRC drama.

Bains told the bench that he was not pressing for a prayer of FIR quashing and that the petitioner has also sought a direction for framing of a proper mechanism to deal with the alleged misuse of the sedition law.

According to a report in LiveLaw, the petitioner said that in spite of multiple SC orders on the ‘narrow ambit’ of Section 124A of the IPC, that deals with sedition, cops were registering FIRs even against those ‘airing genuine criticism against the establishment.’

Using the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression as constitutional rights, the PIL averred that “this includes freedom of expression in the form of conducting a play.”

The petition specifically states one of its grounds as:

"Despite well settled principle of law and the judgments of this Hon'ble Court, the Karnataka Police failed to distinguish between an academic discourse/artistic endeavor and the serious criminal act of sedition, registered a sedition case against a school for a play criticising CAA-NRC-NPR and arrested school teachers and a widowed mother of a student."

The petition also reportedly further contended that the ‘direct corollary of imposing sedition charges for organising a play, (which criticises a law) shall be antithetical to Article 21 of the Constitution.’

(With inputs from ANI, PTI and LiveLaw)

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