India's Supreme Court has stayed the country's colonial-era sedition law, in a landmark order that many believe could pave the way for scrapping of the statute.
The 1870 law under Section 124A of Indian Penal Code criminalises any action that "excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government". It entails a maximum punishment of life in jail.
The sedition law "will be paused" and "all pending cases will be kept in abeyance" until the government completes its review, a top court bench said on Wednesday, in the wake of a public interest litigation plea.
"We hope and expect that Centre and state will desist from registering any FIR under Section 124A (sedition law) or initiate proceeding under the same till re-examination is over," said Chief Justice NV Ramana, who led the bench.
"If any fresh cases are filed under the law, the affected parties can approach the court," the top court said.
Human rights activists say that the sedition law has been misused by successive Indian governments to silence their critics.
"The law has been misused against people for trivial reasons such as sharing of a social media post or drawing a cartoon critical of the government," said Rajinder Taneja, a Delhi-based activist.