No need to re-examine sedition law, says Centre
The Union government cited a 1962 verdict that allowed Section 124A to continue to be part of the Indian Penal Code.
The Centre on Saturday defended the sedition law in India, stating that there was no need to re-examine it, PTI reported.
In a written submission to the Supreme Court, the Centre said that a three-judge bench cannot review the validity of Indian Penal Code Section 124A, which deals with sedition, as a constitution bench has already justified it in a 1962 verdict.
Section 124A states that whoever “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India” can be held to have committed the offence of sedition.
Journalists, activists and political leaders have filed petitions in the Supreme Court arguing that since the law is misused, it needs to be struck down.
“Instances of the abuse of provision would never be a justification to reconsider a binding judgement of the constitution bench,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, reported PTI.
A Supreme Court bench of three judges comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli will hear the pleas challenging the validity of the colonial-era law on Tuesday. It would be decided whether the pleas should be referred to a larger bench to reconsider the 1962 verdict in the Kedar Nath Singh case.
In the 1962 verdict, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had held that criticism of public measures or comments on government action falls under the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression as long as the comments do not “incite people to violence against the government established by law” or are made “with the intention of creating public disorder”.
The verdict had also allowed Section 124A to continue to be part of the Indian Penal Code, The Hindu reported.
On Saturday, the Centre argued that the 1962 verdict is binding, the Hindustan Times reported.
“It [1962 verdict] must be treated as a binding precedent requiring no reference,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court. “The remedy would lie in preventing abuse on a case-to-case basis rather than doubting a long-standing settled law declared by a constitution bench for about six decades.”
Mehta countered the allegation that the law has lost its relevance in Independent India, according to The Times of India. The law was successfully applied in several cases, including journalist Vinod Dua’s case in 2021, he added.
“It is a settled position in law that a judgement which withstood the test of time and has been followed not mechanically but in the context of changing circumstances, cannot be easily doubted,” Mehta said.
In 2020, Dua faced sedition and other charges for criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration. The police action against Dua was widely criticised by journalists. The Editors Guild of India had called it a brazen attack on free speech. The Indian Journalists’ Union said that the FIRs against Dua were an attempt to intimidate and stifle the media.