Refrain From Filing FIRs Under Sedition Law, Those Jailed Can Apply for Bail: SC
"It will be appropriate not to use the provision till further re-examination of the sedition law is over," CJI said.
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Observing that the central government agrees with the prima facie opinion of the court that the rigours of the sedition law (under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code) are not in accordance with the current social milieu, the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 11 May, urged the central and state governments to refrain from registering any FIR invoking Section 124A.
"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."Supreme Court, in its order
"It would be appropriate to put the provision on abeyance," the top court said.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana added: "It will be appropriate not to use this provision till further re-examination of the sedition law is over."
Further, the court directed that all appeals and proceedings under Section 124A be kept in abeyance. However, proceedings under other sections of the law would continue, the court said.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE ALREADY IN JAIL?
As for those who have already been booked under the sedition law and are presently languishing in jails, the top court said that they can approach the courts for bail.
The bench comprising CJI Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli ruled that if any fresh case is registered, the appropriate parties are at liberty to approach courts for 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 top court said in its order.
WHAT ELSE DID THE COURT SAY?
The court also said that the Centre would also be at liberty to issue directives proposed and placed before the top court to the states to prevent the misuse of Section 124A.
Stating that "the court is cognisant of the duty of the State on one hand and citizens' civil liberties on the other" and that "there is a requirement of balance of consideration," the apex court ordered that the central government reconsider the provision.
The apex court's directions came in a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the sedition law, and will be in force until further orders.
WHAT HAD THE CENTRE SUGGESTED?
Previously on Tuesday, the apex court had asked the Centre whether the pending sedition cases could be kept in abeyance. However, the Centre had, on Wednesday, told the court that staying the provision may not be the correct approach, and had suggested selecting a responsible officer for scrutiny, with the officer's satisfaction being subject to judicial review.
In its draft circular, the Centre suggested:
"A FIR involving Section 124A will be registered only if an officer not below the rank of the Superintendent of Police is satisfied and records his satisfaction in writing that the offence alleged involved Section 124A as analysed by the Supreme Court in the captioned judgment (Vinod Dua vs Union of India)."
Further, with regard to pending cases, the SG had said that they were not sure of the of the gravity of each case and that some of them may have a 'terror' angle or involve money laundering.
WHAT WAS THE PETITIONER'S COUNSEL'S ARGUMENT?
However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, had objected to the proposal and dubbed it wholly unacceptable.
On being asked by Justice Kant, who the petitioners preferred for scrutiny of the pre-registration FIR (if the not Superintended of the Police as suggested by the Centre), Sibal said the FIR should not go to anybody at all and that it should be stayed at the first instance itself.
A study by Article 14 has revealed that India has seen a 28 percent rise in sedition cases in the last decade. According to their database, "65 percent of nearly 11,000 individuals in 816 sedition cases since 2010 (till 2021) were implicated after 2014," coinciding with the formation of the BJP government led by Narendra Modi at the Centre. Among those charged with sedition range from opposition politicians, students and journalists, to authors and academics.
While this order can help increase the chances of bail for those who have already been jailed under the sedition law, it cannot help those who have been charged under other draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) along with sedition. This means that those incarcerated in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, or the accused in the Delhi Riots Conspiracy Case are unlikely to benefit from this Supreme Court order.
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