NEW DELHI: With the Supreme Court quashing the FIR on sedition and other charges against senior journalist Vinod Dua, many journalists who have been at the wrong end of this law can expect relief on similar grounds.
According to legal experts, Thursday's ruling will come as a relief for journalists facing sedition cases. Interestingly, another bench of the Supreme Court has already issued a notice on a set of other petitions to examine the interpretation of the sedition law, particularly in the light of media rights and freedom of speech.
"Today's judgement will be a precedent for other pending cases. Moreover, the court in previous cases had decided to examine the law which will directly impact the ongoing cases. It will be interesting to see if the court examines the law clause by clause so that enough checks and balances will be in place and its misuse can be minimised," said Supreme Court advocate Ashish Singh.
Section 124A of the IPC describes sedition as punishable with imprisonment from three years to a lifetime, a fine, or both. Uttar Pradesh has filed over 22 sedition cases in the wake of a sexual assault in Hathras last year. Among them is Kerala-based scribe Siddique Kappan.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), conviction rate in sedition cases was 3.3 per cent in 2019. Earlier this year, such cases were filed against journalists Mrinal Pande, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath for sedition, among other charges, after the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day. The top court has stayed the arrest of all of them.
Two journalists from Manipur were slapped with NSA and sedition charges. In 2018, Law Commission of India stated that for expressing a thought not in consonance with the government’s policy a person should not be charged under sedition.