Maharashtra withdraws circular on sedition

Bombay HC had restrained government order

Maharashtra withdraws circular on sedition

Amid mounting pressure by Opposition parties, criticism by mediapersons, writers and intellectuals, the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra has withdrawn its controversial August 27 circular vis-a-vis section 124 of Indian Penal Code, that covers sedition.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the home portfolio, in a recent meeting with officials at Mantralaya, has decided to withdraw the circular, Advocate General Srihari Aney on Tuesday told a division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justice V M Kanade and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi.

When Justice Kanade sought to know how the circular was issued, Aney said the state government would conduct an exercise to find out how this happened and how the circular came to be issued.

However, Aney did not mention whether the government proposes to come out with another circular.

The circular had triggered a row for ostensibly trying to invoke sedition charge for criticising political establishment, however, the government had claimed that it got lost in translation and had promised to bring a revised version.

The Bombay High Court had earlier restrained the government from acting on the circular. There were two petitions on this issue — one  filed by famous cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was himself arrested on charges of sedition earlier and another was filed by advocate Narendra Sharma.

According to the petitioners, the circular 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  IAC website.

However, on a PIL, Bombay High Court, had granted him bail.

According to the circular, that was  sent to all the police stations across the state, police personnel have been asked to bear in mind that the sedition clause of IPC can be invoked against whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, dissatisfaction and provoking violence against the central or state government.

However, section 124-A will not be invoked against those trying to bring change in government through legal means without hatred and contempt, the circular said.

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