Sedition law to be held in abeyance till its review: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed all proceedings in sedition cases and directed the Centre and states to not register any fresh FIR invoking sedition charges until the government re-examines the colonial era penal law.
Those jailed for sedition can approach courts for bail.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said all pending cases, appeals and proceedings with respect to charges framed for sedition should be kept in abeyance, reports PTI.
"It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law till further re-examination is over. We hope and expect that centre and state will desist from registering any FIR under 124 A (sedition law) or initiate proceedings under the same till re-examination is over," said Justice Ramana, ndtv.com reported.
If any fresh cases are filed, those charged can approach the court. "The Union of India is at liberty to pass directives to states to prevent misuse of the law," the Chief Justice added.
Reliefs granted to the accused by courts would continue, the bench said and fixed the third week of July for hearing pleas challenging the validity of the provision; by then, the Centre would have the time to undertake the exercise to re-examine the provision.
Earlier, during the hearing, the Centre suggested that a superintendent of police ranked officer could be made responsible for monitoring the registration of FIRs for the offence of sedition.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench, which also comprised Justices Surya Kkant and Hima Kohli, 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.
With regard to pending sedition cases, the Centre suggested that hearing on bail pleas in such matters may be expedited as the government did not know the gravity of offence in each case and they may have terror or money laundering angles.
"Ultimately, pending cases are before the judicial forum and we need to trust courts," the law officer told the bench.
Petitioners opposed the government's stand and urged the court to pause the sedition law until the government's review of the colonial-era legislation is over. To which, the Solicitor General said: "We cannot undermine respect for the judiciary of the country."
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioners, said there were over 800 cases of sedition across India and 13,000 people were in jail.
On Tuesday, the bench had asked the Centre make its stand clear within 24 hours on keeping the pending sedition cases in abeyance to protect the interests of citizens already booked and not registering fresh cases till the government's re-examination of the colonial-era penal law is over.