August 18, 2016 12:59:52 am
A PIL was filed Wednesday in the Supreme Court seeking a review of all the cases filed under the sedition charge and to make approval from the Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police a must before lodging an FIR for sedition.
Complaining against “blatant” misuse of sedition law by successive governments despite the Constitution bench’s decision on narrowing down its scope 54 years ago, NGO Common Cause has requested the top court to lay down extensive guidelines to prevent “arbitrary” arrest of people in such cases.
The petition has sought direction for strict compliance with the apex court’s ruling in Kedarnath vs State of Bihar (1962) case. The court had held in this case that only those acts which involved incitement to violence or violence constituted a seditious act under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
“In carrying out arrests and slapping charges, the police and the governments have rarely, if ever, respected this restriction. Successive governments have blatantly used Section 124A to stifle the voice of dissent and to further their political goals,” the petition, to be argued by advocate Prashant Bhushan, stated.
Citing the National Crime Records Bureau report, it pointed out that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone, with a total of 58 people being arrested in connection with these cases. But the government has managed only one conviction.
As the apex court had held that the gist of the offence of sedition is “incitement to violence” or the “tendency or the intention to create public disorder”, the petitioner sought direction for making it compulsory for the authority concerned to produce a reasoned order from the Director General of Police (DGP) or the Commissioner of Police certifying that the “seditious act” either led to the incitement of violence or had the tendency or the intention to create public disorder before lodging any FIR.
The petition listed cases lodged against noted writer Arundhati Roy, cartoonist Assem Trivedi, civil rights activist Binayak Sen, 67 Kashmiri students in Uttar Pradesh, actor Aamir Khan, Tamil folk singer S Kovan and JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar to “threaten” them.
The petitioners also quoted Mahatma Gandhi who had said in 1922: “Section 124-A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
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