Government initiated process of re-examining sedition law: Centre to Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India.
Supreme Court of India. File/ GK

New Delhi: The Central government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it has initiated process of re-examining Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises the offence of sedition.

Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, said that consultations on review of Section 124A are at advance stages. He urged the bench to post the matter for hearing after Monsoon Session of the Parliament. A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala took into note the submissions of the Attorney General and posted the matter for hearing of pleas challenging Section 124A for hearing in August.

"Attorney General states that the government has initiated the process to re-examine 124A and consultations are at an advanced stage. In view of this statement and AG's request, we keep this in second week of August," the Court said in its order," the bench said.

Last year AG had told the top court that issue is engaging the attention of relevant authorities and some changes in relation to the sedition law may happen in Winter Session of Parliament in 2022. The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises the offence of sedition. Earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered that sedition law will be kept in abeyance till the government's exercise of reviewing the law is complete. It had asked Central government and States not to register any cases for the under Section 124A.

It had added that if such cases be registered in future, the parties are at liberty to approach court and court has to expeditiously dispose of the same.

Allowing the Central government to re-examine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124A, the apex court had said that it will be appropriate not to use the provision of law till further re-examination is over.

Earlier, the Centre had told the top court that government cannot prevent police from registering a cognisable offence under sedition provision, but an FIR under Section 124A would be registered only if area Superintendent of Police (SP) is satisfied that facts of a case involves sedition offence.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for petitioners had told the bench that the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had termed Section 124A as most obnoxious provision aimed at stiffling dissent and Mahatma Gandhi had termed this as most potent weapon to silence opposition to govt.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had then replied that this government is trying to do what Pandit Nehru could not do then.

In the affidavit, the Centre had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is of firm view that baggage of colonial era laws, which outlived their utility, must be scrapped during the period of 'Azadi Ka Marti Mahotsav' (75 yrs of independence).

In that spirit, the government of India has scrapped over 1500 outdated laws since 2014-15, it had stated.

However, before that the Central government took a stand that 1962 verdict of the five-judge Constitution bench case which upheld the validity of the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, is binding and continues to be is a "good law and needs no reconsideration".

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