Sedition, defamation cannot be invoked for criticism: SC


Sedition, defamation cannot be invoked for criticism: SC [Polity]

  • Sedition or defamation cases cannot be slapped on anyone criticising the government, the Supreme Court said.
  • Someone making statement to criticise government does not invoke an offence under sedition or defamation law. Invoking of section 124(A) of IPC (sedition) requires certain guidelines to be followed as per earlier judgement of SC.
  • 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.
  • The sedition law has already been explained in the five-judge constitution bench judgment in Kedar Nath Singh vs state of Bihar of 1962.
  • Law has not been amended after the Kedar Nath Singh judgment by the apex court and that a constable does not understand the judgment, but what he understands is the section in the IPC.
  • There has been an increase in the number of cases of sedition against intellectuals, activists, students, with the latest being the sedition charge on Amnesty India for organising a debate on Kashmir.
  • In this regard, a petition has been filed to address the misuse and misapplication of Section 124A (sedition law) by the Centre and various State Governments leading to routine persecution of students, journalists and intellectuals engaged in social activism. It is submitted that these charges are framed with a view to instill fear and to scuttle dissent.
  • Referring to a National Crime Records Bureau report, the plea said that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone and 58 persons arrested in connection with these cases, but the government has managed only one conviction so far.
  • Recent examples of activists being slapped with sedition charges, including Arundhati Roy in 2010 for alleged anti-India remarks at an event in Kashmir, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in 2012 for allegedly insulting the country through his cartoons, doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen, JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and DU professor S.A.R. Geelani.
  • The plea sought a direction that either Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police be asked to give a report before registration of an FIR for the offence of sedition that the act has led to violence or there was an intent on the part of the accused to create public disorder.
  • The constitutional validity of section 124(A) rests upon either an intention to create public disorder or incitement of violence.