The Maharashtra government on Tuesday withdrew its controversial resolution on sedition that gave the police the power to act against anyone critical of the state or Central government.
The state’s advocate general Shrihari Aney told a Bombay high court division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi that the state had found it was “wrong” to have come up with the circular and had realised the HC’s previous directions on the sedition laws had got lost in translation.
Aney said the chief minister had decided against further arguments in court, but did not comment on whether the state intended to come up with a fresh circular.
With the state’s submission, the HC has disposed of petitions challenging the circular, including one filed by cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was arrested in 2012 on a sedition charge for his political cartoons.
The HC has however given Trivedi and another petitioner, Narendra Sharma, the liberty to file fresh pleas on the suggestions they have submitted.
On August 27 this year, the Maharashtra government had issued the controversial resolution that gave the police the power to act against those critical of the government, if it deemed that such critiques were offensive. The GR invoked the colonial era sedition clause under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code.
Following outrage from activists and opposition parties, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis sought to justify the GR by arguing it had been issued in accordance with the HC’s directions – in the case against Trivedi, the HC had asked the state to issue guidelines to the police on how to invoke the sedition clause. Legal experts had unanimously agreed the state had misread the HC’s directions and Trivedi and others challenged the GR in court. They argued the circular was unconstitutional and violated the fundamental rights of citizens.
Last month, the HC stayed the GR saying it was unacceptable, and sought a reply from the state on how the circular came to be issued.