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'Would be appropriate to put it in abeyance': SC puts sedition law on hold till Centre reconsiders the law


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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked both the Centre and states to refrain from registering any FIR invoking sedition charges.

All pending cases, appeals and proceedings with respect to charges framed for sedition should be kept in abeyance, said the apex court.

It also said that the relief granted to accused to continue, while fixing the month of July for hearing pleas challenging validity of the provision.

“It would be appropriate to put the law in abeyance. It is hoped States will not register new cases for sedition.” The bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said.

During the course of hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for Centre had said they have a proposed draft on the plan to deal with future sedition cases till the Union government reexamines the provision of law.

“\We have a proposed draft. We cannot prevent police from registering a cognizable offence under the provision but says an FIR under sedition law would be registered only if area SP or similar rank officer is satisfied that facts of a case.” He had said.

“My concern is that we are dealing with a cognizable offence and we do not know the gravity of the offence. Cases are being heard by judicial forums. Staying a statutory provision that is upheld by a constitution bench would not be correct.” He added that with respect to the pending cases.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Central government to clarify as to what would happen to pending and future sedition cases, as the Centre has decided to re-examine and reconsider the validity of section 124A (sedition law) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The centre has to give answers to these two questions on Wednesday.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the petitioners had said that people are being arrested because of this provision and this would not be right for them. 

“The constitution does not say this... It is for the judiciary to consider whether something is constitutional or not..... Kedarnath is based on federal court judgement. That is why it says in the judgement that state is government. The state became a republic later. Hence, making it a separate entity. State and government are not the same thing now...” He added.

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Justice Surya Kant had asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on how the use of the provision will be dealt at the ground level as local police operates it the most.

“In Kedar Nath the provision was melted down. In 2021 also. But at ground level, who is operating the law. The local police is operating. Unless you issue a direction, that you are reconsidering the provision and no cases be registered...He added that if serious happens, there are other penal laws to take care of it. “ He said to the SG.

The Central government in a fresh affidavit before the Supreme Court had said that it has decided to reconsider & re-examine the provision (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code, 1860) dealing with the sedition law.

The Union government had asked the top court to await the exercise of reconsideration of examining the validity of the law.

“In view of the aforesaid it is respectfully submitted that this Hon’ble court may not invest time in examining the validity of section 124A of the IPC 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 permitted,” the affidavit reads.

The Central government had said that it is committed to maintaining and protecting the sovereignty of the nation as well as removing outdated colonial laws. 

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"When the country is celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years since independence) the government is working to shed colonial baggage", it said.

"In that spirit, the government of India has scrapped over 1,500 outdated laws since 2014-15, it added"It has also ended over 25,000 compliance burdens which were causing unnecessary hurdles to the people of our country. Various offences which were causing mindless hindrances to people have been de-criminalised. This is an ongoing process. These were laws and compliances which reeked of a colonial mindset and thus have no place in today`s India," the Centre said.

The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of section 124A of the Indian Penal code, 1860.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)