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Have withdrawn controversial circular on sedition: Government to HC

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court that it has withdrawn its controversial circular issued on August 27 to prevent misuse of section 124-A of IPC which deals with sedition.

State Advocate General Srihari Aney made this statement before a division bench of justices VM Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, in response to two petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the circular.

Justice Kanade sought to know as to how the circular was issued.

To this, the AG replied that the state government would conduct an exercise to find out how this happened.

He also informed that Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis, at a recent meeting of officials at Mantralaya, had decided to withdraw the circular.

However, the AG did not mention whether the government would come out with a fresh circular.

Outside the court, Aney told reporters that it was for the government to decide whether it will issue fresh circular.

The BJP-led Maharashtra government had last month admitted that the circular — which had triggered a row for ostensibly trying to invoke sedition charge for criticising political establishment — got lost in translation and had promised to bring a revised version.

The high court had earlier restrained the government from acting on the circular.

One petition was filed by famous cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was himself arrested on charges of sedition earlier. The other one was filed by advocate Narendra Sharma.

The bench had asked the state to file its reply, failing which the court would treat these petitions as unconverted and decide them at the admission stage itself.

The circular, which sparked a row, had laid down certain conditions required to be considered for initiating action against a person under section 124-A of IPC which deals with sedition.

The state came out with a circular on August 27 laying down conditions to be observed while invoking sedition charge. It was challenged by Trivedi and others.

According to the petitioners, the circular was unconstitutional and violated fundamental rights of citizens.

Trivedi was arrested on September 8, 2012, on 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 high court had granted him bail. Later, the state government, on the advice of the Advocate General, had dropped the charge though the case under other provisions of IPC continued against him.

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