India

The Supreme Court grants the Centre time to continue its investigation into the sedition law

Despite an interim order suspending the contentious sedition law and the consequential registration of FIRs, the Supreme Court granted the Centre an extension on Monday to review the colonial-era provision.

During the winter session of Parliament, something may happen that could affect the Centre, Attorney General R Venkataramani told a bench of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and Bela M Trivedi.

As the topmost law officer stated, the concerned authorities have reviewed the issue. Furthermore, there was “no reason to worry” due to the interim order halting use of the provision on May 11.

By the directions issued by this court in order dated May 11, 2022, Mr Venkataramani, the attorney general, submits that the matter is still attracting the attention of the appropriate authorities. It is his request that some additional time be granted to the government so that appropriate steps can be taken.

As a result of the interim directions issued by this court…dated May 11, 2022, every interest and concern is protected, and therefore no prejudice will be caused to any party. In response to his request, we adjourn the matter until the second week of January, 2023,” the bench ruled.

The Commission also noted certain other petitions on the matter and sent notices to the Centre requesting a response within six weeks.

The court in its landmark ruling on May 11 put the contentious law on hold until the Centre completed its promised review of the colonial relic and directed the Union and state governments not to file any new cases based on the offence.

Additionally, it had directed that all ongoing investigations, ongoing trials, and all proceedings under the sedition law would be abated across the country, and those in jail on sedition charges would be permitted to seek bail from a court of competent jurisdiction.

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) includes the offence of sedition, which has been under intense public scrutiny due to its use in suppressing expressions of dissent, including on social media. As a colonial power, the British government used the sedition law primarily to suppress dissent and imprison freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Petitions have been filed against the penal provision by the Editors Guild of India, Major General (Retd) S G Vombatkere, former Union minister Arun Shourie, and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

It is alleged in the petitions that the law has a chilling effect on free speech and restricts free expression, a fundamental right, to an unreasonable degree.

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