It will soon be mandatory for the police to seek legal opinion from the district law officer before slapping sedition charges in the state.
The Maharashtra government has assured the Bombay high court that it will issue guidelines to all police stations in the state making it mandatory to obtain legal opinion, in writing, from the law officer of the district – district prosecutor – as per Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
The division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Nitin Jamdar has recorded the assurance on its order disposing of a public interest litigation raising concern over the serious charge of sedition slapped against cartoonist Asim Trivedi whose work had been displayed during a rally in Mumbai in November 2011.
“A citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government or its measures, by way of criticism or comments, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the government,” the bench said. “The section (124A) aims at rendering penal only those activities as would be intended or have a tendency to create public disorder or disturbance,” it said.
The court further observed that the section could not be invoked to penalise criticism of the people engaged in administration or strong words used to express disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to their improvement or alteration by lawful means.
Comments howsoever strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions of the government without exciting those feelings without cause public disorder by acts of violence would not fall within the purview of the penal provision.