New Delhi: The Supreme Court directed the Centre as well as the states on May 11 to suspend all pending trials, appeals, and proceedings with regards to the charge framed under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) till the centre completes the exercise promised by them of re-considering and re-examining the provision.
The central government had initially backed the colonial era law, which deals with the offence of sedition, but they later changed their stance and told the supreme court that they were reviewing it.
What is the sedition law ?
Section 124A defines sedition as: "Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added…"
The provision also contains three explanations, which are as follows:
1. The expression "disaffection" includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity
2. Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section
3. Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
What are the origins of the sedition law?
Thomas Macaulay, the man who drafted the Indian Penal Code, included the law on sedition but it was not added in the code enacted in 1860. Legal experts were of the view that this omission was accidental. Later on, sedition was included as an offence under section 124A IPC through the Special Act XVII in 1890.
The punishment prescribed then, transportation "beyond the seas for the term of his or her natural life", was amended to life imprisonment in 1955.
Meanwhile, The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a fresh challenge against the provision after a batch of petitions were filed by journalists, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha, Kanhaiya Lal Shukla; and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, among others.
This would involve a seven-judge bench considering whether the Kedar Nath ruling was correctly decided.
Although the government initially defended the provision arguing that "isolated incidents of misuse" do not necessitate removal of the provision itself, it has now told the court that it is mulling a fresh review of the colonial law.