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HC puts Maharashtra government’s sedition circular on hold

The Bombay High Court has directed the police not to act on sedition circular issued by the Maharashtra government. A PIL had been filed in the Bombay HC challenging Maharashtra government’s recent circular which said that sedition charges can be imposed on anybody who, by words, signs or visible representation, criticises politicians or elected representatives belonging to the government.

The petitioner Narendra Sharma had contended that the circular dated August 27 amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of a person and sought the High Court’s direction to quash and set it aside.

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

According to the petitioner, the circular can be misused by the police who may not have appropriate training and requisite experience to understand the consequences of imposing such stringent provisions of IPC.

The circular was issued following a direction from the Bombay High Court in March which had taken up suo moto cognizance of the issue following the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah had said sedition charges cannot be invoked on persons writing or saying anything in criticism of the government and its measures as far as it does not incite violence or cause public disorder.

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