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Kedar Nath Singh Sedition Ruling

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June 04, 2021

What is the issue?

  • The Supreme Court (SC) quashed the sedition case filed against journalist Vinod Dua in Himachal Pradesh.
  • In this context, it is essential to understand the provisions of Sedition law and the Supreme Court guidelines in Kedar Nath Singh ruling.

What is the recent case about?

  • Journalist Vinod Dua allegedly made remarks against Prime Minister Modi.
  • He also criticized the government’s handling of the migrant crisis during the 2020 lockdown.
  • BJP leader Ajay Shyam filed a case of sedition against Dua.
  • Section 124A of the IPC penalizes sedition.
  • It is punishable with either imprisonment ranging from 3 years to a lifetime, a fine, or both.
  • The Himachal Pradesh government argued in the Supreme Court against Dua.
  • It was said that Dua had attempted to spread misinformation and cause panic among the general public.

What has the court ruled?

  • The Supreme Court shielded Dua from arrest earlier, and now the case itself is quashed.
  • The SC held that his remarks constituted genuine criticism of the government.
  • So, it could not be labeled seditious.
  • In doing so, the court also reiterated the principles in the landmark case on sedition - Kedar Nath Singh v Union of India (1962).
  • [Both the state and the Centre argued against quashing the FIR.]

What was Dua's petition?

  • Dua had sought the court to pronounce certain directions to prevent misuse of the sedition law.
  • Suggestions - It applies to persons belonging to the media with at least 10 years’ standing.
  • FIRs against them should not be registered unless cleared by a committee.
  • The committee is to be constituted by every State Government.
  • It should comprise of the CJ of the High Court or a Judge designated by him, the leader of the Opposition and the Home Minister of the State.
  • Court's response - The Court did not agree to this.
  • It said that formulating such a committee would amount to encroachment of the legislature’s domain.
  • [But such screening committees have been appointed by courts for doctors and in domestic violence cases.]
  • The court however clarified that every Journalist would be entitled to protection in terms of Kedar Nath Singh ruling.

What are the Kedar Nath Singh guidelines?

  • In the 1962 Kedar Nath Singh case, the SC upheld the constitutional validity of the sedition law.
  • It also attempted to restrict its scope for misuse.
  • So, unless accompanied by an incitement or call for violence, criticism of the government cannot be labeled 'sedition'.
  • Seven principles in the Kedar Nath Singh ruling specify situations in which the charge of sedition cannot be applied.

What are the key principles in Kedar Nath Singh ruling?

  • The expression ‘the Government established by law,’ in the Sedition law, has to be distinguished from the persons engaged in carrying on the administration for the time being.
  • [‘Government established by law’ is the visible symbol of the State.]
  • Any acts within the meaning of Section 124-A which have the effect of subverting the Government established by law, or creating disaffection against it, would be within the penal statute.
  • Comments on Government actions, however strongly worded, would not be penal, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence.
  • Sedition is limited only to such activities that come within the ambit of the observations of the Federal Court.
  • This covers "activities involving incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace.”


Source: The Indian Express

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