The Supreme Court of India (SC) Wednesday passed an order to discontinue all pending and future cases in relation to the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The order provides that all pending trials and proceedings with respect to charges under Section 124A are to be kept in abeyance. It directs the central government to refrain from investigating or taking coercive steps in cases involving the offence. Persons aggrieved by any fresh proceedings initiated under the provision can approach the courts for relief.
The issue arose in a batch of writ petitions filed by an Indian army veteran, several journalists and members of parliament, challenging the constitutional validity of the law.
The written submission filed by the Solicitor General of India stated, “The Government of India . . . [h]as decided to re-examine and re-consider the provision of section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which can only be done before the Competent Forum.” The Government agreed that the law is not in tune with the current social milieu.
The court observed that there is a necessity for a law which protects the security interests and integrity of the state while also upholding the civil liberties of citizens. The current provision is archaic and has been misused on various occasions.
As per section 124A, sedition refers to the incitement of hatred, contempt or disaffection towards the government of India. It is a non-bailable offence punishable with possible imprisonment ranging from three years to life. The 152-year old colonial-era penal provision was often used to incarcerate several Indian freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.