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New Delhi: The Union government has told the Supreme Court that it will re-examine and reconsider Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, on sedition.
In an affidavit filed before the court, the government said this decision was in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to “shed colonial baggage” in the 75th year of independence. Given that the government is going to reconsider the law, the affidavit requested the Supreme Court not to look into the matter at the moment.
“The Government of India being fully cognizant of various views being expressed on the subject of sedition and also having considered the concerns of civil liberties and human rights, while committed to maintain and protect the sovereignty and integrity of this great nation, has decided to reexamine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which can be done only before the competent forum,” the affidavit said, according to Bar and Bench.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions filed questioning the validity of the sedition law, given its widespread misuse by police forces across the country. Last week, the Union government had asked the court for more time to finalise its response.
The batch of writ petitions was filed by army veteran Major-General S.G. Vombatkere (Retired); Editors Guild of India; former Union minister Arun Shourie; Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra; journalists Anil Chamadia, Patricia Mukhim, Anuradha Bhasin; People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); and the Journalist Union of Assam.
TMC MP Moitra has tweeted that the timing of the Union government’s changed stand reflects that it is using “stalling tricks to buy time.”
Hilarious how Centre using usual stalling tricks to buy time in sedition case. 150 years of law & 7 yrs of Modi govt with no change & now suddenly on eve of SC hearing GoI is all for civil liberties!
Confident SC will decide matter once & for all.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) May 9, 2022
Concerned over the enormous misuse of the penal law on sedition, the top 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 apex court had said its main concern was the “misuse of law” leading to the rise in the 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 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 the law is concerning. 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.