Does SC’s judgement on sedition law halt its application in India

The provision is halted, despite the fact that the court did not directly prohibit it but experts worry that the ambiguous terminology used by the Apex Court could again be used to file new cases

While determining the legality of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court (SC) raised the bar for the government to use the provision by ruling that it would be desirable not to proceed with the offence of sedition until the government reconsiders the provision.

According to the ruling of the Apex Court, the legislation of sedition is effectively postponed until the court considers the matter again, in July 2023.

SC brings blatant abuse of sedition law into focus

In its latest ruling, the SC informed that the petitioners’ stand is that this section of legislation comes from 1898, predates the Constitution, and is being misapplied.

On a previous date of hearing, the Attorney General had also cited several examples of blatant abuse of this law, such as the recitation of the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’.

As a result, the Court said, it anticipates that until the re-examination of the provision is completed, it will be appropriate for governments to refrain from using the aforementioned provision of legislation.

Sedition law will stop being used blatantly

Although the court did not expressly stop the provision, it halts its execution to a large extent.

The court also ruled that cases that are currently before trial under the said provision would be “held in abeyance,” and that it will hope and anticipate that governments will abstain from filing new FIRs, investigating cases, or adopting coercive action against the accused.

If a new case is filed under Section 124A of the IPC, the aggrieved parties are free to seek appropriate remedies from the respective courts, the Court ruled, while directing that the courts are to evaluate the reliefs sought, taking into consideration the current ruling as well as the Union of India’s position over the same.

SC places onus on Centre to stop frivolous sedition charges

The Supreme Court, in highlighting the prospect of new cases being brought despite the judiciary’s prohibition, has placed the onus on the government to ensure that frivolous sedition charges are not lodged to abuse the law.

Meanwhile, the Central government informed the court that it will issue a direction to States and union territories on how the sedition statute would be used in the future.

Experts sceptical about SC’s latest ruling about sedition law

However, many experts worry that using the terms like ‘hope’ and ‘expect’ would be ineffective since it is sometimes difficult for court orders to filter down to the lowest levels of government to prevent abuse.

Some experts even went on to state that it is really difficult to believe that the Court’s ruling of ‘held in abeyance’ about sedition law will be understood in a far-away remote police station by the in-charge officer or a station house officer. So, it will take time for the ruling to change things on the ground.

Also, the court’s decision to place the burden of determining the law’s legitimacy on the government is likewise uncharted ground.

Rampant use of sedition law since 2014

It is in place to mention here that there has been rampant use of sedition law since the year 2014, with 6 sedition cases filed during anti-farm law rallies; 25 cases during anti-CAA demonstrators; 22 cases following the Hathras gangrape; and 27 cases after the attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14, 2019.

According to statistics about sedition cases from Article 14, there has been a 28 per cent rise in such cases in the past 10 years, especially against critics and protesters.

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