Sedition law: Immediate relief unlikely for terror, Naxalism accused

Those charged in Naxalism related cases may not get relief from the SC order on sedition lawNEW DELHI: The Supreme Court’s interim order on Section 124A may not bring relief to those accused or chargesheeted in high-profile cases relating to terrorism or the urban Naxal network, investigated either by NIA or other law enforcement agencies. For, the sedition provision is almost never used as a standalone charge in such cases and is invariably combined with more stringent laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Arms Act, and Explosives Act, etc.
Former UP DGP OP Singh conceded that Section 124A was indeed misused in many cases and suggested that certain precautions be built into the provision. One of the solutions, he said, could be to make it mandatory for a competent officer — “the level of seniority may be decided by the government” — to register a case under Section 124A. “This way there will be some accountability against its abuse,” said Singh.
He admitted that the longstanding debate on Section 124A was testimony to the fact that it was controversial and lacked safeguards against its misuse. “A DGP, for instance, would not come to know if a sedition case has been registered at the thana level, perhaps with the involvement of a local politician. Some guidelines to check its misuse may therefore be laid down,” he said.
On the other hand, a senior IPS officer cautioned that the lack of an option to register a case under Section 124A may tempt the authorities to straight away invoke UAPA, which has far more stringent bail provisions. This may therefore not serve the purpose of preventing instances where criticism of the State lands a person in jail.
Singh agreed that invoking of charges under UAPA could be the flip side of disabling the operation of Section 124A. “Invariably, law enforcement agencies try to invoke laws based on how difficult it would be to get bail. It was why NDPS, TADA etc were invoked in many cases, even where not justified.”
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