‘Provision Was Abused To Stifle Free Speech’: Ex-Attorney General On SC Sedition Verdict

New Delhi: Former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohtagi hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to put on hold the sedition law as bold and historical, saying this provision had been abused constantly to stifle free speech. Putting the sedition law on hold, the apex court has urged the Centre and the states to refrain from registering any FIRs invoking Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The former Attorney General of India, as quoted by news agency ANI, said, “This was introduced 100 years ago by British to suppress Indians. Idea was no one should be able to overthrow them. It’s lost all significance because India is a sovereign nation. Time has come for re-look.”

He added, “Govt’s decision to review is welcoming. Till reviewal, the section would not be operated. This is fair. This provision was abused constantly to stifle free speech.”

It is to be noted that the top court has allowed the Central government to re-examine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124A of IPC that criminalises the offence of sedition. The Supreme Court in its order said that till the exercise of re-examination is complete, no case will be registered under 124A.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday had sought the Central government’s stand on keeping the pending sedition cases in abeyance.

As the Central government had agreed to re-examine the colonial-era law on Monday, the top court posted two queries – one is about the pending cases, and the second about how the government will take care of future cases until reconsideration.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in his argument on Wednesday, told the court SC that it cannot prevent the police from registering a cognisable offence under the sedition provision, but FIR under Section 124A is to be registered only if the area Superintendent of Police is satisfied that the facts of a case involve a sedition offence. 

Notably, the Centre had earlier defended Section 124A but in an affidavit on Monday, it said it has decided to “re-examine and reconsider” the sedition law and also urged the Supreme Court not to “invest time” in examining its validity once again.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, 356 cases of sedition were registered, and 548 persons were arrested between 2015 and 2020.

However, just 12 persons detained in seven sedition cases were convicted in this six-year period.

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