Sedition Law under scanner| All pending cases to be kept in abeyance; Centre/States urged not to register fresh cases till Section 124A is reviewed: SC

Supreme Court: In the petitions challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124A of the Penal Code 1860 dealing with the offence of Sedition, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has urged the State and Central Governments to restrain from registering any FIR, continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the sedition law is under consideration.

It was contended before the Court that this provision of law dates back to 1898, and pre-dates the Constitution itself, and is being misused. The Attorney General had also, on an earlier date of hearing, given some instances of glaring misuse of this provision.

Interestingly, the Union of India agreed with the prima facie opinion expressed by the Court that the rigors of Section 124A of IPC is not in tune with the current social milieu, and was intended for a time when this country was under the colonial regime. In light of the same, the Union of India may reconsider the aforesaid provision of law.

Being cognizant of security interests and integrity of the State on one hand, and the civil liberties of citizens on the other, the Court observed that there is a requirement to balance both sets of considerations, which is a difficult exercise.

Therefore, the Court observed

“…we expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the Governments.”

It, hence, was of the opinion that,

  • The State and Central Governments are urged to restrain from registering any FIR, continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the sedition law is under consideration.
  • All pending trials, appeals and proceedings with respect to the charge framed under Section 124A of IPC be kept in abeyance. Adjudication with respect to other Sections, if any, could proceed if the Courts are of the opinion that no prejudice would be caused to the accused.”
  • If any fresh case is registered under Section 124A of IPC, the affected parties are at liberty to approach the concerned Courts for appropriate 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.
  • Further, the Union of India shall be at liberty to issue the Directive to the State Governments/Union Territories to prevent any misuse of Section 124A of IPC.
  • The above directions may continue till further orders are passed.

[S.G. Vombatkere v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 609, order dated 11.05.2022]

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