NEW DELHI :
Asks Centre, States to not file fresh FIRs until the law is under review. Says, all pending cases, appeals under the provision would be kept at abeyance
The top court considered Attorney General’s submissions citing glaring misuse of this provision, like in the case of recital of the Hanuman Chalisa
PUTTING on hold the sedition law, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the registration of FIRs, ongoing probes and coercive measures on the matter across the country until an “appropriate forum” of the Government re-examines the colonial era penal law that dates back to 1898, and pre-dates the Constitution itself. In its significant order on the law that has been under intense public scrutiny, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said that there was need to balance the interest of civil liberties and interests of citizens with that of the State. Taking note of the concerns of the Centre, the apex court said, the “rigours of Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC is not in tune with the current social milieu” and permitted reconsideration of the provision.
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, directed the Centre and States to not register any fresh FIR invoking sedition charges until the sedition law is “under reconsideration”. The court listed the matter in the third week of July and said, its directions shall continue till further orders. Any affected party is at liberty to approach concerned courts that are requested to examine the reliefs sought taking into the consideration the present order, the apex court said. “We hope and expect that the States and the Centre will restrain (themselves) from registering any FIR, continue any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking section 124A of the IPC till the aforesaid provision of law is under re-consideration,” ordered the bench. “The Attorney General, on previous date of hearing, had given some glaring examples of misuse of the sedition law like in a case of recital of ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ (by Rana couple in Maharashtra), therefore, we expect that till the re-examination of the law is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue with the usage of the aforesaid provision of the law by the Governments,” the Chief Justice of India said in the order. The bench did not agree to the Centre’s suggestion that a Superintendent of Police ranked officer be made responsible for monitoring the registration of FIRs for the offence of sedition.
The Centre had also said that the registration of FIRs on the matter cannot be prevented as the provision dealt with a cognisable offence and was upheld by a Constitution bench in 1962. The bench, which rose for a few minutes to discuss the orders after taking note of the Centre’s response, came back to pronounce the directions and said it has considered the issues elaborately. Referring to the Central Government’s view, it said, the Union of India also agreed with its prima facie views on the penal provision which can be reviewed by the competent forum. It extended interim orders granting relief to those accused of sedition.
All pending cases, appeals and proceedings with respect the provision of sedition would be kept at abeyance and the adjudication of other offences, if any, could proceed, the order said. In addition, it permitted the Centre to issue directives to the States to prevent misuse of the provision. Earlier, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, apprised the bench of the views of the Centre and opposed the plea to stay the operation of the law. With regard to pending sedition cases, the Centre suggested that hearing on bail pleas in such matters may be expedited as the Government did not know the gravity of the offence in all the cases and they may have terror or money laundering angles.