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Strong criticism of govt isn’t defamatory or seditious, says SC, underlines 1962 verdict (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II, Topic: Freedom of Speech and Expression)

View of Supreme Court
The Supreme Court asserted that “making a strong criticism of the government” is not even defamatory, let alone seditious. The court also directed all authorities, including police and trial judges, to follow its Constitution Bench ruling which stated that only incitement to violence and public disorder could form the basis of a sedition charge.

Details of the Judgement
“Suppose somebody makes a strong criticism of the government… even a case of criminal defamation cannot be filed, let alone a case of sedition. Every magistrate is bound by what we said in the Kedar Nath (case),” said the bench.

In Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, 1962, a Constitution Bench had ruled in favour of the constitutional validity of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, but had added a vital caveat: that a person could be prosecuted for sedition only if his acts caused “incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace”.

Arguing for the PIL, advocate Prashant Bhushan submitted before the bench that policemen are usually unaware of the safeguards provided in the Kedar Nath case, which has resulted in arbitrary arrests of people and registration of numerous cases of sedition.

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