Common Cause and Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), launched India’s first Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR 2018) at the India Habitat Centre on May 9.

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There has been an increase in the number of cases of sedition against intellectuals, activists, students, with the latest being the sedition charge on Amnesty India for organizing a debate on Kashmir. In this regard, a petition has been filed by us in the Supreme Court to address the misuse and misapplication of Section 124A (sedition law) by the Centre and various State Government 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 and are in complete violation of the scope of sedition as laid down by constitution bench judgment of Supreme Court in Kedar nath v State of Bihar [1962 Supp. (2) S.C.R. 769], which is the locus classicus on the interpretation of sedition. 

The petition has been filed on behalf of Common Cause and Dr. S.P. Udayakumar (anti-nuclear activist against whom sedition charges have been made). Mr. Prashant Bhushan will appear on behalf of the petitioners.

As per the constitution bench judgment in Kedarnath, only those acts which involve incitement to violence or violence constitute a seditious act. In the various cases that have been filed in the recent years, the charges of sedition against the accused have failed to stand up to judicial scrutiny. The petitioner is therefore seeking a strict compliance of the constitutional bench judgment of Supreme Court in Kedar Nath in which the scope of sedition as a penal offence was laid down and it was held that the gist of the offence of sedition is “incitement to violence” or the “tendency or the intention to create public disorder”. Thus, those actions which do not involve violence or tendency to create public disorder, such as organization of debates/discussions, drawing of cartoons, criticism of the government etc do not constitute the offence of sedition.

In the petition, a prayer is being made for the issuance of an appropriate writ, order or direction making it compulsory for the concerned authority to produce a reasoned order from the Director General of Police (DGP) or the Commissioner of Police, as the case maybe, certifying that the “seditious act” either lead to the incitement of violence or had the tendency or the intention to create public disorder, before any FIR is field or any arrest is made on the charges of sedition against any individual. Similarly, there is a prayer for a review of all pending sedition cases and for criminal complaints for sedition made before a Judicial Magistrate with a view to curb the misuse and misapplication of sedition law.

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