Sending out a clear message to the government,the Supreme Court said that making a strong criticism of the government is not even defamatory, let alone seditious.
“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 UU Lalit said.
The observation when the court was hearing petition by an NGO, which said that the sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was appearing for an NGO,cited the examples of sedition charges being slapped on agitators protesting against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, among others. He further added that civil rights activists, student leaders, writers, actors and poets are bearing the brunt of whimsical registration of sedition cases.
To this, the bench said, “We don’t have to explain the sedition law. It’s already there in the five-judges constitution bench judgement in Kedar Nath Singh vs state of Bihar of 1962.”
Supreme Court of India
Citing the National Crime Records Bureau report, the PIL had pointed out that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone, with 58 persons being arrested in connection with these cases. The government, however, managed only one conviction.