Supreme Court puts sedition law on hold

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Central government to re-examine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises the offence of sedition.

The Supreme Court, in a historic order putting on hold the colonial-era law, said that till the exercise of re-examination is complete, no case will be registered under IPC Section 124A and added that those already charged under it can approach courts for bail.

Section 124 of the IPC deals with punishments for sedition offences.

What is the sedition law?

Section 124A defines sedition as: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government estab­lished by law shall be punished with im­prisonment for life, to which fine may be added…”

The provision also contains three explanations:

1- The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity; 2- Comments expressing disapprobation of the meas­ures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section; 3- Comments expressing disapprobation of the admin­istrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

“It is clear that Centre agrees that rigours of section 124a are not in tune with the current situation and it was intended for the time when the country was under colonial law. Thus centre may reconsider it…The court is to balance civil liberty and sovereignty of the state. This is a difficult exercise,” the Chief Justice of India NV Ramanna said.

“The Union of India is at liberty to pass directives to states to prevent misuse of the law,” the Chief Justice of India said. “It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law till further reexamination is over. We hope and expect that centre and state will desist from registering any FIR under 124a or initiate a proceeding under the same till reexamination is over,” It said.

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