‘Voice of Truth Can No Longer Be Suppressed’

Opposition parties on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to put on hold the controversial sedition law, which has been under intense scrutiny, with the Congress saying “you can no longer suppress the voice of truth”. Left parties, meanwhile, demanded that the colonial-era law should be scrapped altogether and top court must not wait for the central government to review it.

Union law and justice minister Kiren Rijiju, however, invoked Chief Justice NV Ramana’s recent comments on ‘Lakshman Rekha’ and said there should be one guiding different institutions including the executive and the judiciary, and no one should cross their “boundary”.

In a significant order, the SC said while the Centre reviews the law, those in jail can approach courts for bail. A bench headed by CJI Ramana stayed all proceedings in sedition cases while directing the Centre and states to not register any fresh FIR invoking sedition charges until the sedition law is “under reconsideration”.

Prime Minister Modi, on May 9, had directed that the provision of the sedition law be re-examined and reconsidered. The affidavit filed by the government highlighted Prime Minister Modi’s view on civil liberties and the “need to shed colonial baggage”. The affidavit also mentioned that views of stakeholders will be taken into account, while it will be ensure that the sovereignty and the integrity of the country is preserved while looking into Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.

The Congress said the apex court’s move was a clear message to subjugators of dissent, and that those critical of the government must be heard. Reacting to the SC’s decision, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said “telling the truth is patriotism, not treason” and listening to the truth is “Rajdharma”, while crushing the truth is “arrogance”. “Do not fear,” he urged people in a Twitter post in Hindi.

Emphasising on how the British heaped numerous sedition cases against freedom fighters, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said this law needed to be done away with. He said speaking truth to power could not be sedition for it is “true nationalism and the true test” of how committed one was to the country and to the people.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) issued a statement welcoming the verdict. “The CPI(M) has always opposed the sedition law, saying it is anachronistic, brought in by the British to crush our freedom struggle and it has no place in the statute books in independent India. It’s good that the SC has now ordered that this section must be kept in abeyance… The plea of the Modi government that it will review the cases is specious because it has been grossly misusing the sedition law to harass all dissent since 2014,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.

Talking about a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ governing institutions, Rijiju said, “We respect each other. The court should respect the government, the legislature, so as the government also should respect the court. We have a clear demarcation of boundary and that ‘Lakshman Rekha’ should not be crossed by anybody.”

The BJP’s IT cell head, Amit Malviya, credited PM Modi for the Supreme Court’s decision. He tweeted: “In 1962, a five judge bench had upheld the Sedition Law. Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. A three judge bench of the Supreme Court looking into the matter couldn’t have overruled it had GoI, on the instruction of PM Modi, not filed an affidavit seeking time to reassess…”

(With PTI inputs)

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