The Supreme Court virtually suspended operation of the much-misused 124-year-old sedition provision to stop police from invoking it against anyone from now on and stayed both probe and trial in existing sedition cases to allow the Centre to examine softening the rigour of Section 124A in the Indian Penal Code to sync it with the present social milieu.
Not content with the Centre’s offer that in future no sedition FIR would be registered without prior approval of the area superintendent of police until the re-examination of the controversial provision had been completed, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli in their unprecedented order said, “We expect that, till the re-examination of the provision is complete, it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of the aforesaid provision of law by the governments. ”
The apex court craftily couched its directions as its “expectations”, secure in the knowledge that these are seldom betrayed by the executive. While staying investigation, trial and appeal proceedings in existing sedition cases registered, the bench said, “If any fresh case is registered under Section 124A, the affected parties are at liberty to approach the concerned courts for appropriate relief. ”
It asked the courts to examine relief sought by arrested persons taking into account the SC order and the Centre’s unambiguous stand.