New Delhi: The Centre has sought time from the Supreme Court to file its response on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the colonial era penal law on sedition. A three-judge Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, had April 27 directed the Central government to file the reply. It had said it would commence the final hearing in the matter May 5 and would not entertain any request for adjournment.
In an application filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre said the draft of the affidavit is ready. However, it was awaiting confirmation from the competent authority.
The top court, in its last order, had noted that senior advocate Kapil Sibal will lead the arguments from the petitioner’s side against the validity of section 124A (sedition) of the IPC in the matter.
Concerned over the enormous misuse of the penal law on sedition, the Supreme Court in July last year had asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to silence people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress the freedom movement.
Agreeing to examine the pleas filed by the Editors Guild of India and former Major-General S G Vombatkere, challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, the Supreme Court had said its main concern was the ‘misuse of law’ leading to rise in number of cases.
The non-bailable provision makes any speech or expression that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
While issuing the notice on the petitions in July last year, the top court had referred to the alleged misuse of the provision and had asked if the ‘colonial era law was still needed after 75 years of Independence’.
“This dispute about law is concerned, it is a colonial law. It was meant to suppress the freedom movement. The same law was used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak etc. Still, is it necessary after 75 years of Independence,” the CJI had asked.
Some of the other petitioners include former Union Minister Arun Shourie and journalists Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha from Manipur and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla from Chhattisgarh.