The Bombay High Court on Tuesday restrained Maharashtra government from acting on its August 27 circular issued to prevent misuse of section 124A of IPC which deals with sedition till the state files a reply to two petitions challenging the constitutional validity thereof.
The order was delivered by a division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade who was hearing the petitions. One was filed by famous cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and three others while the other one was filed by advocate Narendra Sharma.
The bench asked the state to file its reply by October 20 failing which the court would treat these petitions as unconverted and decide them at the admission stage itself.
The government pleader made a statement that the state would take a final stand on the circular. It may consider to either withdraw the circular or issue a fresh one in view of the controversy, the court was told.
The circular, which has sparked a row, has laid down certain conditions required to be considered for initiating action against a person under section 124 A of IPC which deals with sedition.
According to the petitioners, the circular of August 27 was unconstitutional and violated fundamental rights of citizens. Trivedi was arrested on September 8, 2012, on the basis of an FIR under section 124A (sedition) and other provisions of IPC for cartoons published on "India Against Corruption" website. However, on a PIL, the Bombay HC had granted him bail.
Later, the state government, on the advise of the Advocate General, had dropped the charge though the case under other provisions of IPC continued against him. The state came out with a circular on August 27 this year laying down conditions to be observed while invoking sedition offence. This circular has been challenged by Trivedi and others. Trivedi's lawyer Mihir Desai contended that some clauses of the circular issued by the state were vague and contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court as well as High Courts.
Trivedi's petition opposed the circular as it allegedly said that any citizen criticizing a public personality or a politician is responsible of an act of sedition.
"This ambiguity can be misused by the state against an individual citizen for fair criticism of politician or public personality and or against a fair criticism of their policies."