PIL on sedition circular, Maharashtra government reply sought in 2 weeks

Justices V M Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi has given the state government two weeks to file its reply.

| Mumbai | Published: September 9, 2015 1:00:35 am

The High Court has granted two weeks to the state government to file its reply on a public interest litigation (PIL) that has sought trashing of a government circular defining guidelines for police to slap sedition charges.

A debate has been raging over the issue and the PIL states that the government stand is arbitrary and aimed at curbing the freedom of speech.

Justices V M Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi has given the state government two weeks to file its reply.

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The PIL filed by advocate Narendra Sharma (25) says that the circular will rob people of freedom of speech and expression. The petitioner said that the subordinate machinery, the police, might not have the “requisite” training to understand the consequences of imposing such a “stringent” provision.

In August, the state government came out with the circular defining conditions under which police can arrest a person on sedition charges. The guidelines have been criticised by many as an attempt to stifle the democratic right of people to criticise the government.

The High Court had in March ruled that sedition charges (Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code) cannot be invoked in cases where the administration or the government is criticised, unless such censure leads to violent public reaction.

The issue had been raised during the hearing of a public interest litigation dealing with the arrest of Mumbai-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in 2012 and the charges of sedition brought against him under Section 124A for drawing “objectionable” cartoons.

The court had asked the state about its proposed guidelines for application of sedition charges.

The government circular lists four major recommendations the police are supposed to keep in mind before invoking sedition charges.

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