On Wednesday - May 11, the Supreme Court has scripted a history through its historical verdict of putting the draconian Sedition law (section 124A) on hold. The long journey of sedition law that hard-hit the activists, suppressed the opposition, and threatened the basic rights has finally been put to rest, thanks to the judicial body for the landmark judgement of temporarily suspending the Sedition, that strangulated the freedom of expression and dissent.
The verdict of suspending the 152-year-old law has swiftly got national attention with several activists welcoming the judgment and hoped that the law will fully be revoked. On the other hand, the Union government has been re-examining the provisions of the law. In what has become a significant order in the judgment, the apex court has directed the Union government and the states to refrain from registering any new FIR, continuing any investigation, or taking any coercive steps under the sedition law.
The ongoing proceedings in all pending cases under the sedition have also been stayed by the apex court. As per the judgement, we can say that neither new cases under the sedition law can be filed across the country nor the government can proceed further with the ongoing cases. The court said that the appropriate move will be not to use this provision of the law till further re-examination is over.
A bench comprising the Chief Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli said in its order, "We hope and expect Centre ad state governments will refrain from registering any FIR, continuing investigation, or taking coercive steps under Section 124A IPC when it is under reconsideration. It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law till further re-examination is over." The order has come a day after the Union government said it is willing to re-examine the provisions of the sedition law.
While dictating the order, Chief Justice Ramana said, "The court is cognizant of the duty of the state on one hand and citizens' civil liberties on the other. There is a requirement for a balance of consideration. The case of the petitioner is that this provision of law dated back to 1898 and is being misused. The Attorney General had also given instances of glaring misuse like cases registered for a recital of Hanuman Chalisa."
Earlier, during the hearing, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ramana was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Union government said that the registration of FIRs for the offence of sedition cannot be prevented as the provision dealt with a cognisable offence and was upheld by a Constitution bench in 1962. In the front of pending sedition cases, the Union government has said that the hearings of the bail petition in such cases can be fastened.
Remarkably, this is the first time in 152 years that the Sedition law has been suspended. The apex court will now be hearing the pleas challenging the validity of sedition provisions in the third week of July during which the Centre would have re-examined the provisions. The historical verdict has won a huge reception from the activists and the opposition parties and the Congress party has welcomed the judgement. The party's spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "Free speech will not be throttled by autocrats & dictators masquerading as rulers."
Taking to Twitter, Surjewala wrote, "Historic indeed! Supreme Court has sent a clear message. Suppressors & subjugators sitting in citadels of power be forewarned - Free speech will not be throttled by autocrats & dictators masquerading as rulers. Speaking truth to power can't be sedition & status quo will change."