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Supreme Court orders sedition law to be kept in abeyance, says those facing charges can move for bail

Before reserving the order on the interim arrangement relating to Article 124A, the three-judge bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli countered and told petitioners' counsel Kapil Sibal that it was only looking for an answer as to what should be done until the government completes re-examination of the sedition provision.

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that the sedition law will be paused until the Central government completes its proposed review to scrap draconan colonial laws. Those already facing sedition charges can approach courts for bail, the apex court said.

The three-judge bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli passed the historic order.

During the hearing, Solictor General Tushar Mehta, for the Central government, told the Supreme Court that it cannot prevent police from registering a cognizable offence under sedition but said an FIR under Section 124A would be registered only if the area Superintendent of Police (SP) is satisfied that the facts of a case satisfy conditions to book sedition offence.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said pending sedition cases can be reviewed, the pending re-examination of the provision by the Centre, for early grant of bail to those booked under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

The petitioners’ counsel Kapil Sibal said that Section 124A has become prima facie unconstitutional and that the Apex Court must stay the application of the sedition provision till the Centre or Supreme Court reviews the provision’s legality.

Countering Kapil Sibal, the bench asked, “What is this argument of striking down the provision? Can it be struck down today?” To this, Sibal replied that prima facie the provision is unconstitutional and its operation should be stayed.

Before reserving the order on the interim arrangement relating to Article 124A, the bench told Sibal that it was only looking for an answer as to what should be done until the government completes re-examination of the sedition provision.

Apart from this, the Supreme Court has put a stay on all ongoing sedition cases in the country saying it will not be appropriate to use this law until further reexamination.

The Supreme Court restrained the Centre and states from registering FIRs, continuing any investigations or taking any coercive measures under Section 124A (sedition) while the colonial provision is under reconsideration.

If any fresh case is listed under Section 124A, the accused can approach the courts concerned for relief, on which courts will provide relief taking into account this order, as well as the stand, was taken by the Union to reconsider the law due to glaring abuse of it.

All appeals and proceedings under Section 124A shall be kept in abeyance. Proceedings under other sections of law would continue.

However, the Centre is at liberty to issue a directive and the directions of SC to be followed until further orders.

The Supreme Court has listed the case in the third week of July.

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