supreme court of India Getty Images

India: Supreme Court’s temporary suspension of sedition law a welcome step

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA

QUOTE

Responding to the Supreme Court of India’s order urging Indian authorities to temporarily refrain from using the sedition law and keep all pending trials, appeals and proceedings on hold, Aakar Patel, Chair of Amnesty International India’s Board, said:

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s order to suspend the sedition law until the Government of India re-examines the 152-year-old provision. For far too long, authorities have misused the sedition law to harass, intimidate, and persecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists, students, filmmakers, singers, actors, and writers for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Sedition has been used as a tool of political repression by successive governments.”

“The order, putting a hold on registration of FIRs is a step in the right direction for protection and promotion of the right to freedom of expression. As long as the sedition law remains in place, human rights defenders and others who speak out against repression will continue to be punished.

“The government should urgently repeal this pernicious legislation, and comply with their international human rights obligations.”

Background

On 11 May, the Supreme Court directed the Central and state governments to keep in abeyance Section 124A of the IPC that defines sedition as any act or attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or…excite disaffection towards the government”.

Multiple rulings of the Supreme Court have stated that a speech would amount to sedition only if it involved incitement to violence or public disorder. According to media reports, more than 800 sedition cases have been filed against 13,000 Indians since 2010.