Order putting sedition law on hold to continue; SC grants time to Centre

The Supreme Court tells the Centre not to register fresh FIRs under Section 124A; government says it is re-examining the colonial provision

October 31, 2022 05:15 pm | Updated November 01, 2022 09:52 am IST

The Supreme Court of India took note of certain other petitions on the matter and issued notices to the Centre, seeking its reply in six weeks’ time. File

The Supreme Court of India took note of certain other petitions on the matter and issued notices to the Centre, seeking its reply in six weeks’ time. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

An interim order putting on hold the contentious sedition law and the consequential registration of FIRs will continue as the Supreme Court granted additional time to the Centre on Monday to take "appropriate steps" with regard to the reviewing of the colonial-era provision.

A bench of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi was told by Attorney General R. Venkataramani that some more time is granted to the Centre as "something may happen in the Winter Session of Parliament".

The topmost law officer said the issue has been under consideration by the authorities concerned and moreover, there was "no reason to worry" in view of the May 11 interim order, which had put the use of the provision on hold.

Also Read | India’s sedition law, its usage, and the opinions around it

R. Venkataramani, the attorney general, submitted that in terms of the directions issued by this court in an order dated May 11, 2022, the matter is still engaging the attention of the relevant authorities. He also submitted that some additional time is granted so that appropriate steps can be taken by the government.

"In view of the interim directions issued by this court...dated May 11, 2022, every interest and concern stand protected and as such there would be no prejudice to anyone. At his request, we adjourn the matter to the second week of January, 2023," the bench said.

Also Read | Sedition law needs to be reconsidered: Centre tells Supreme Court

It also took note of certain other petitions on the matter and issued notices to the Centre, seeking its reply in six weeks' time.

In the landmark order passed on May 11, the court had put the contentious law on hold till the Centre completed its promised review of the colonial relic and also asked the Union and state governments not to register any fresh case invoking the offence.

It had also directed that the ongoing probes, pending trials and all proceedings under the sedition law will be kept in abeyance across the country and those in jail on sedition charges could approach the court for bail.

The offence of sedition, which was included in section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1890, has been under intense public scrutiny for its use as a tool against expressions of dissent, including on social media. The British government, during its colonial rule, had used the sedition law primarily to suppress dissent and imprison freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

The Editors Guild of India, Major General (Retd) S.G. Vombatkere, former Union minister Arun Shourie and People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have filed petitions against the penal provision.

The petitions contend that the law causes a "chilling effect" on free speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right.

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