Sedition, defamation charges cannot be invoked for criticism: Supreme Court

The observation came as Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, said sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: September 5, 2016 5:11 pm
Sedition charge, defamation charge, India defamation, sedition, supreme court defamation, news, India news, national news, latest news The court, while disposing of a petition filed by NGO Common Cause alleging misuse of the sedition law, refused to pass a direction on the plea that a copy of this order be sent to all Chief Secretaries of states and the DGPs. (File Photo)

Sedition or defamation cases cannot be slapped on anyone criticising the government, the Supreme Court on Monday said in a clear message.

“Someone making a statement to criticise the government does not invoke an offence under sedition or defamation law. We have made it clear that invoking of section 124(A) of IPC (sedition) requires certain guidelines to be followed as per the earlier judgement of the apex court,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit said while refraining from saying anything further on the issue.

The observation came as Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, said sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent. He cited the examples of sedition charges being slapped on agitators protesting against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, among others.

To this, the bench said “we don’t have to explain the sedition law. It’s already there in the five-judges constitution bench judgement in Kedar Nath Singh vs state of Bihar of 1962.” The court, while disposing of a petition filed by NGO Common Cause alleging misuse of the sedition law, refused to pass a direction on the plea that a copy of this order be sent to all Chief Secretaries of states and the Directors General of Police.

“You have to file separate plea highlighting if any misuse of sedition law is there. In criminal jurisprudence, allegations and cognisance have to be case specific, otherwise it will go haywire. There can’t be any generalisation,” the bench said. Bhushan said law has not been amended after the Kedar Nath Singh judgement by the apex court and a constable does not understand the judgement but what he understands is the section in the IPC.

“Constables don’t need to understand. It is the magistrate who needs to understand and follow the guidelines as laid down by the apex court while invoking sedition charges,” the apex court said. The court was hearing a plea seeking the apex court’s intervention to address the “misuse” of section 124 A of the IPC contending that such a charge was being framed with a view to “instill fear and scuttle dissent”.

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    Vikrant
    Sep 5, 2016 at 3:08 pm
    Taking foreign aids to obstruct any activity of the government is certainly sedition. Those who were obstructing the nuclear plan in TN were being funded by foreign agencies. Why are these NGOs so scared to declare their financial books and file IT returns as mandated by law? Do these NGOs think they are above law?
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      Arun
      Sep 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm
      RSS is above consuition and above LAW. It will not follow the instruction of the SC.
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      1. Bhagat Khera
        Sep 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm
        Healthy criticism of the Govt in public interest should be encouraged and just criticising and provoking the mes in political interest should be condemned BY ALL
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          Col S
          Sep 5, 2016 at 5:20 pm
          Defamation law is the ROOT of every SCAM as it makes NETA_ BABU bold.It protects the POWERFUL , RICH and PRIVILEGED CORRUPT and scared VITIZENS and whistle blowers.MISCARRIAGE of justice.A judge mus tnot ADMIT the case. Judges too are responsible for bein g soft towards corrupt and powerful.
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            PUSPARAJ SAHOO
            Sep 5, 2016 at 3:07 pm
            But then shouting slogans and actions against the motherland-what does it amounts to?
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