The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of sedition law to a five-judge bench, reported Live Law.

A three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, stated that a five-judge bench can decide if the 1962 judgment that had upheld the validity of the law can continue to be a binding precedent.

Chandrachud said that the five-judge bench can also refer the bench to a seven-judge bench to reconsider the judgement.

The development came as the Supreme Court rejected the Centre’s request to defer the hearing. The government said that it was planning to replace the Indian Penal Code with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita bill, 2023, in Parliament last month and stated that it will repeal the offence of sedition under IPC Section 124A. However, the government has introduced a new clause in the proposed law that has similar definition and scope of the sedition law.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the Supreme Court said that even if the proposed bill becomes a law, it can only apply prospectively. This means that the past cases under Section 124A IPC will not be affected.

“Therefore, the new law will not obviate the need for a constitutional adjudication on the validity of the provision,” the bench stated.

In May last year, the Supreme Court had put the sedition law in abeyance and asked central and state governments to not file any new cases until it was reexamined. The ruling had come after the Narendra Modi government said it would reexamine the law and urged the court to not take up the matter until it did so.

At the time, the court had observed that the Central government “agrees with the prima facie opinion expressed by this court that the rigours of Section 124A of IPC are not in tune with the current social milieu, and was intended for time when this country was under the colonial regime”.