Wednesday, May 18, 2022
HomeWorldIndia top court puts colonial-era sedition law on hold for review

India top court puts colonial-era sedition law on hold for review

Rights teams and even the Supreme Court have spoken out about rampant misuse of the law towards activists, writers and college students.

India’s Supreme Court has barred the federal government from utilizing a colonial-era sedition law that critics say is commonly used to stifle dissent, pending a review.

The 152-year-old law, which the British colonial authorities used towards Mahatma Gandhi and different leaders of a marketing campaign for independence, remained on the books after India’s 1947 independence and has been used by governments since then.

“It will be appropriate not to use this provision of law until further re-examination is over,” Chief Justice N V Ramana instructed the court on Wednesday after it dominated that each one proceedings underneath the law, referred to as Section 124-A, “shall be kept in abeyance”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authorities had instructed the court this week it was reviewing the law, which says anybody bringing hatred or contempt, or inciting disaffection in direction of the federal government, will be punished with as much as life in jail.

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The Law Commission of India and even the Supreme Court have at varied instances commented on what they’ve mentioned was rampant misuse of the sedition law towards social activists, writers and students.

New Delhi-based lawyer Tanveer Ahmed Mir instructed Al Jazeera the top court has realised that in a constitutional democracy, “disaffection towards the government cannot be a prosecutable offence because dissatisfaction or affection is basically demanded by a monarch”.

“The problem in sedition law is the covenant of the disaffection towards the government in power. You can’t have a criminal indictment of disaffection towards a government in a constitutional democracy,” he mentioned.

Mir mentioned he’ll transfer the court on Thursday to hunt bail for Sharjeel Imam, a pupil jailed underneath the sedition law since January 2020.

Imam is believed to be the pioneer of the Shaheen Bagh protest, a 100-day-long peaceable sit-in organised within the capital to protest the passage of a controversial citizenship law in 2019.

Sharjeel Imam, a pupil jailed in India underneath the sedition law [Courtesy of Rehan Khan/Al Jazeera]

Lawyer Kapil Sibal, who represented the petitioners within the Supreme Court, mentioned there have been greater than 800 circumstances of sedition throughout India, and 13,000 individuals had been in jail underneath the law, India’s NDTV web site mentioned in a report.

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The Indian structure ensures freedom of speech and expression as a elementary proper to all its residents.

Responding to the court’s order, federal Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju mentioned the federal government “respects the court and its independence”.

“But there is a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ [red line] that must be respected by all organs of the state in letter and spirit. We have to ensure that we respect the provisions of the Indian constitution as well as existing laws,” he instructed India’s ANI information company.

Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy mentioned the court barring the misuse of sedition law is a “very significant step forward” and hoped the federal government would “scrap the law”.

“It’s a great thing. The Supreme court giving the deadline to the central government but at the same time making sure that new cases are not registered and no coercive action is taken in all cases is a very significant step forward,” she instructed Al Jazeera.

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