Published on: May 12, 2022 at 18:36 IST
The Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended pending criminal trials and court proceedings under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code while allowing the Union of India to reconsider the British-era law.
The 3-judge bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said that,“All pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A of the IPC be kept in abeyance.”
The Court also made it clear that it “hopes and expects”, the Centre and States to restrain from registering FIRs, continuing investigations or take coercive measures under Section 124A of IPC while the “reconsideration” of the colonial provision was on.
The Court, meanwhile, gave the Union of India liberty to issue a directive to the States and its authorities to prevent the continued misuse of the sedition law.
Undertrials booked under Section 124A of IPC can now use the order to seek bail.
The Government had urged the court to pause its hearing of a batch of petitions challenging Section 124A of IPC until the Government completed its “reconsideration process” of the Sedition Provision.
“This court is cognisant of 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,” the Court observed.
“Therefore, we expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the provision by the governments,” the Court reasoned.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, had submitted that Section 124A of IPC represented a cognizable offence and the authorities could not be prevented from registering cases under the provision.
“We do not know the gravity of offences involved in these cases… Some may also involve charges of terrorism and money-laundering,” Mr. Mehta argued.
“Section 124A is per se unconstitutional… We have not come to court for a stay of the provision. We want the court to strike it down,” Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal contented.
The Court had further sought the government’s response on whether the use of the British-era law could be suspended in view of the reconsideration process.
The Court listed the Sedition Case for the third week of July.