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SC says criticising the govt cannot be termed sedition

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The Supreme Court on Monday said that criticising the government cannot be termed sedition and it is high time for the court to define what sedition is in the context of freedom of the press.

The bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud made the remarks while hearing a plea filed by two Telugu news channels—TV 5 and ABN Andhrajyoti—challenging the sedition charges levelled against them by the Andhra Pradesh Police.

The top court said that Section 124A requires detailed interpretation with respect to its application to media and freedom of the press. “We are of the view that provisions of 124A and 153 of IPC require interpretation, particularly on the issue of the rights of the press and free speech,” Justice DY Chandrachud remarked.

The case

The Andhra Pradesh Police had lodged an FIR against TV5 and ABN Andhrajyoti with sedition for airing alleged offensive speeches of YSR Congress rebel MP, K Raghu Rama Krishna Raju. The lawmaker has been already granted bail on May 21 after he was arrested by Guntur CID on May 14 for alleged sedition and spreading communal hatred.

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The apex court on Monday asked the Andhra Pradesh police not to take any coercive action against the channels in connection with the sedition case. It also issued notice to the Andhra Pradesh government and the Centre to file their replies within four weeks.

What the channels contended

Senior advocates Shyam Divan and Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the news channels, argued that the FIR was an attempt to ‘muzzle electronic media’ and ‘violate freedom of the press’. The channels, in their plea, have sought quashing of the FIR, saying that act of broadcasting speech by a sitting MP cannot be seditious.

The apex court said that Section 124A requires detailed interpretation with respect to its application to media and freedom of the press.

 

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