In 16 months, Supreme Court has put two central laws on hold
In about sixteen months, the penal provision of sedition became the second central government law to be put on hold by the Supreme Court, pending a final adjudication.
New Delhi: In about sixteen months, the penal provision of sedition became the second central government law to be put on hold by the Supreme Court, pending a final adjudication.
On January 12, 2021, the top court stayed the three contentious farm laws that had brought tens of thousands of protesting farmers to Delhi’s doorstep.
A three-judge bench, headed by then Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, held that suspension of the legislation “may assuage the hurt feelings of the farmers and encourage them to come to the negotiating table with confidence and good faith”.
The court, at that time, also formed a four-member committee to discuss the legislation with both farmers and the government and make recommendations to it, and hoped that the stay order will be perceived by the farmers as an “achievement, prompting them “to get back to their livelihood”.
The committee submitted its report to the Supreme Court two months after it was constituted but the document kept gathering dust since the bunch of cases were not listed for a hearing.
In November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government has decided to repeal the three farm laws. Announcing the decision of not going ahead with the law, the Prime Minister assured the country that the government was not against farmers.
While the judicial course of the farm laws effectively ended with the PM’s announcement, Modi’s apparent approval to a review of the sedition law set off an interim order on suspension of the colonial-era legislation.
When the Union government submitted its affidavit in the court on Monday to communicate its decision to “re-examine and reconsider” Section 124A, the three-page document highlighted the PM’s impetus on protection of civil liberties and the need to shed “colonial baggage”.
The government underlined that Modi “has been cognisant of various views expressed on the subject and has also periodically, in various forums, expressed his clear and unequivocal views in favour of protection of civil liberties, respect for human rights, and giving meaning to the constitutionally cherished freedoms by the people of the country”. The PM, said the Centre, has repeatedly said that one of India’s strengths is the diverse thought streams that beautifully flourish in our country.
A day ago, CJI NV Ramana made specific reference to the parts of the affidavit which mentioned the PM’s views. “We have to look into all the angles. See what the affidavit says; the PM has been cognisant of various views being expressed on the subject of sedition...We will definitely take into consideration that they are conducting a serious exercise. We should not appear like we are being unreasonable,” justice Ramana remarked on Tuesday when the court asked the government if it was willing to put the sedition law on hold until the review is complete.
On Wednesday, the bench reproduced the government’s affidavit to hold that the Union of India agrees with the prima facie opinion expressed by the court that the rigors of Section 124A of IPC is not in tune with the current social milieu, and was intended for a time when this country was under the colonial regime.
The court thus concluded that till the government’s exercise of reviewing the sedition law got over, “it will be appropriate not to continue the usage of” Section 124A of IPC.