Observing that expression of views that are different from the opinion of the government cannot be termed as seditious, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a PIL seeking action against National Conference president Farooq Abdullah over his comments on abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta rejected the plea and also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the petitioners for making such claims.
“Expression of views which are different from the opinion of the government cannot be termed as seditious,” the bench observed.
The top court was hearing a plea that referred to his statement on restoring Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and contended it clearly amounts to a seditious act and therefore he is liable to be punished under section 124-A of the IPC.
The petition filed by Rajat Sharma and Dr Neh Srivastava, both belonging to an organisation Vishwa Guru India Vision of Sardar Patel, alleged that the former chief minister is trying to “hand over” Kashmir to China and thus, he should be prosecuted for sedition.
“Mr Farooq Abdullah has committed an offence punishable under section 124-A of Indian Penal Code. As he has made the live statement that for restoring Article 370 he would take help of China which clearly amount to seditious act and therefore he is liable to be punished under section 124-A of the IPC,” the plea said.
The petitioners also referred to a statement made by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra to claim that Abdullah is misleading the people of Jammu and Kashmir to join China for the restoration of Article 370 of the Constitution.
The Central Government had scrapped the special status granted to J&K under Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and divided the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh – with effect from October 31, 2019.
After the scrapping of Article 370, senior J&K leaders, including Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and PDP supremo and former CM Mehbooba Mufti, were put under house arrest.