The top court way back in 1962 in Kedar Nath case had limited the scope of Section 124A by laying down the principles that authorities had to adhere to before filing a sedition case, holding it would be invoked only to curb “activities involving incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace”.
Reiterating the principles laid down in Kedar Nath Singh case, the bench said: “Except saying so, we do not intend to deal with any other issue as we are of the considered opinion that it is not necessary to do so.”
The court said while disposing of a PIL by NGO Common Cause seeking direction making it “mandatory for the concerned authority to produce a reasoned order from the Director General of Police (DGP) or the Commissioner of Police, certifying that the ‘seditious act’ either led to the incitement of violence or had the tendency or the intention to create public disorder, before any FIR is filed or any arrest is made on the charges of sedition against any individual”.
The court asked the authorities to follow the principles laid down in Kedar Nath case as counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for Common Cause and anti-nuclear activist S.P. Udayakumar told the bench that sedition law was being grossly misused, misapplied and abused by the authorities.
The PIL had cited the cases of Binayak Sen, Udayakumar himself, Tamil folk singer S.Kovan, JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, Delhi University professor S.A.R. Geelani and the recent instance of invoking sedition charges against Amnesty India for organizing a debate on Kashmir.
The PIL by the NGO had pointed out that the sedition law as being applied today was contrary to the parameters laid down by the top court’s constitution bench Amore than 50 years ago (1962) in Kedar Nath case.
The constitution bench in its 1962 judgment had said that the gist of the offence of sedition is “incitement to violence” or the “tendency or the intention to create public disorder”.
The petitioners were concerned at the increasing number of ‘sedition’ cases being filed across the country, the latest being the slapping of a charge against Amnesty International India for organising a debate on Kashmir and against Kannada actor-turned-politician, Ramya for her ‘Pakistan is not hell remark,’ and challenged this provision in the Indian Penal Code. They said there has been an increase in the number of cases of sedition against intellectuals, activists and students.