A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday alleging a misuse of penal law on sedition by the Centre and various states. The petitioner has claimed that students, scribes and intellectuals involved in social activities were being prosecuted on a “routine” basis. The petition is likely to come up for hearing next week.
Seeking an intervention of the apex court to address the “misuse” of section 124 A (sedition) of the IPC, the petitioner Common Cause, a Delhi-based NGO, contended that such a charge was being framed with a view to “instil fear and scuttle dissent”.
“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 organising a debate on Kashmir,” the plea said.
“In this regard, a petition has been filed to address the misuse and misapplication of Section 124A (sedition law) by the Centre and various State Governments 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,” the plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said.
Referring to the report of National Crime Records Bureau, the plea said that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 alone and 58 persons arrested in connection with these cases, but the government has managed only one conviction.
The petitioner cited a series of recent examples of activists being slapped with sedition charges, including Arundhati Roy in 2010 for alleged anti-India remarks at an event in Kashmir, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi in 2012 for allegedly insulting the country through his cartoons, doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen, JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and DU professor SAR Geelani.
The plea sought a direction that either Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police be asked to give a report before registration of an FIR for the offence of sedition that the act has led to violence or there was an intent on the part of the accused to create public disorder.
The PIL also sought a direction that the investigations and prosecutions be dropped in cases where such a reasoned order is not provided and the act in question involved peaceful expression or assembly.
The constitutional validity of section 124 A rests upon either an intention to create public disorder or incitement of violence, it said.