India's Top Court Puts 152-Year-Old Colonial Era Sedition Law on Hold
13:15 GMT 11.05.2022 (Updated: 10:43 GMT 19.07.2022)
The British included the sedition law in the Indian Penal Code in 1870 in a bid to suppress the voices and writings of Indians demanding freedom from British rule. But even after gaining independence in 1947, Indian governments have continued to use the law.
The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday put the 152-year-old colonial era penal provision of sedition in abeyance until the federal government reviews it.
The court said that new cases invoking the sedition law will not be filed, and those who are jailed under the law can now apply for bail.
Until now, those who have been prosecuted under the sedition law could not apply for bail. Once proven guilty, the individuals were subjected to punishment ranging from serving a three-year jail sentence to a life term.
On Tuesday, the court asked the government if the law was needed 75 years after independence. The federal government answered the apex court by saying it would re-examine and reconsider Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises sedition.
The law, framed in the 1870s by the British government, states that whoever "brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India" can be held to have committed sedition.
A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli heard several petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law.
The petitions were filed by former army officer S.G. Vombatkere, the Editors Guild of India, Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra, NGO People's Union for Civil Liberties, and journalists for striking down Section 124A on the grounds of infringement of fundamental rights and misuse of the law.
As per the Indian Home Ministry, 399 people were slapped with charges of sedition between 2014 and 2020 across the country, including cartoonists, activists, and students.