The Supreme Court on Monday asserted that sedition or defamation case cannot be slapped on anyone criticising the government. It asked authorities, including police and trial judges to follow its Constitution Bench ruling which stated that only incitement to violence and public disorder can be considered as sedition.
“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.
The observation came as advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, said sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.
Bhushan took up the references of sedition charges being slapped on agitators protesting against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, among others. He also mentioned that students, teacher and social right activists are also being slapped with whimsical sedition cases.
“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.
With reference to National Crime Records Bureau, the PIL had pointed out that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 with 58 persons being arrested in connection with these cases. The petition further said cases had been lodged against writer Arundhati Roy, cartoonist Aseem 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.