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Sedition, defamation charges cannot be invoked for criticising govt: SC

The court was hearing a plea seeking the apex court's intervention to address the misuse of section 124 (A) of the IPC

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Supreme Court appoints Uttar Pradesh Lok Ayukta

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

"Someone making a statement to criticise the government does not invoke an offence under or defamation law. We have made it clear that invoking of section 124(A) of (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 was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.

He cited the examples of 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 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 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 Director Generals of Police.

"You have to file separate plea highlighting if any misuse of 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

"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 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 contending that such a charge was being framed with a view to "instill fear and scuttle dissent".

The NGO's plea said "there has been an increase in the number of cases of against intellectuals, activists, students, with the latest being the 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 (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," the plea said.

Acting on a complaint by the ABVP on Saturday, Bengaluru police had slapped charges against Amnesty International India after an event it had organised on allegations of human rights violations and denial of justice in Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to a Crime Records Bureau report, the plea said that 47 cases of were filed in 2014 alone and 58 persons arrested in connection with these cases, but the government has managed only one conviction so far.

It cited a series of recent examples of activists being slapped with 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 that the act has led to violence or there was an intent on the part of the accused to create public disorder.

It also sought a direction that the investigations and prosecutions be dropped in cases where such a reasoned order was not provided and the act in question involved peaceful expression or assembly.

The constitutional validity of section 124 (A) rests upon either an intention to create public disorder or incitement of violence, it had said.

First Published: Tue, September 06 2016. 08:00 IST
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