Supreme Court puts Sedition law on pause

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Until the review of the Section 124A of Indian Penal Code is complete, the Supreme Court (SC) has asked centre and states not to exercise any provision of the law.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday passed an order to pause the usage of the sedition law. The states and central government are not to register new cases under section 124A (Sedition) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) until the top court finishes the review.

The order  prohibits further proceedings or investigations of the existing cases under 124A.

A three-judge bench comprised of  Chief Justice N.V Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli passed the order. SC also stated that citizens can approachthe court if the order is violated.

Prakash Kumar, a senior journalist with the Press Trust of India, described the apex court’s order as “significant” and said it will come as a relief to many of those facing trial or languishing in jails in connection with the sedition cases filed against in various states.

He said the application of sedition law must be reviewed and necessary changes in its application are brought to ensure that it is not used by the government in states and at the Centre as a political tool to suppress the voices against the ruling dispensation.
The “draconian” sedition law had been brought by the British Government to curb the voices of freedom fighters in 1860.
“But after all these years, it’s still. Many journalists and activists have been booked under sedition law and they are still behind the bars” Kumar said, hailing the apex court order as “a relief” for those facing sedition charges.

He said the scrapping of the sedition law has been a long-pending demand post-Independence and the Supreme Court’s stay on its application has brought a ray of hope. However, we have to wait for the final verdict of the Supreme Court in the matter to see whether the sedition law remains there as it is or it is scrapped, Kumar added.

Behind the Bar: Arrests of Journalist in India report by Free Speech collective, states that many journalists have been booked under sedition.. Apart from this, Member of Parliament, Navneet Rana and her husband Ravi, Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) were booked under sedition case.

N Sai Balaji, secretary of All India Student Association (AISA) said, “The country (England) which has made the law, itself doesn’t have it. It’s not a law independent India made.” He added that sedition has been used against citizens who are criticising the government so in that sense the order brings a big relief.

National Crime Record Bureau’s report Crime in India 2020 shows that the number of cases registered under Sedition is increasing from 2018. In 2018 the number of cases registered under Sedition was 70 and it jumped to 93 in 2019.

The Supreme Court has scheduled the next hearing for the third week of July.