Sedition law: govt. seeks more time to file its reply to petitions in Supreme Court

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Representational image | Photo Credit: AP

The Central government has sought more time to file its reply to petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law on sedition.

The case is scheduled for hearing before a Bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

In the previous hearing on April 27, the government agreed to file its reply on April 30 or May 1. However, instead of an affidavit, it filed an application saying it needed more time.

In fact, the government said the affidavit containing its reply was ready but had to be cleared by the competent authority.

No further adjournments

The Bench posted the case for May 5 for final hearing and disposal. The court had made it clear that it would not entertain any further adjournments.

Several petitions have been filed, one lately by senior journalists like Patricia Mukhim and Anuradha Bhasin highlighting the freedom of the Press, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, and one separately by the Editors Guild of India, NGO Common Cause, former Minister Arun Shourie and prominent citizens like retired Army General S.G. Vombatkere, among others challenging the colonial law.

Last year, the CJI himself voiced what could be an unprecedented judicial criticism of the way the sedition law was used by the government to crush liberties. He had questioned why a colonial law used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak continued to survive in the law book after 75 years of Independence.

‘It suppresses freedoms’

“Sedition is a colonial law. It suppresses freedoms. It was used against Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak... Is this law necessary after 75 years of Independence?” Chief Justice Ramana, heading a three-judge Bench, orally addressed Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre.

Chief Justice Ramana had said sedition or Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code was prone to misuse by the government. “The use of sedition is like giving a saw to the carpenter to cut a piece of wood and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself,” he had observed.

The CJI’s oral statement in open court takes a significant note amidst rising public denouncement of Central and State law enforcement agencies using the sedition law to silence dissent, muffle free expression and for denying bail to incarcerated activists, journalists, students and civil society members. A number of petitions have been filed highlighting the “chilling effect” sedition has on the fundamental right of free speech. The CJI’s remarks has also opened the floor for debate and introspection on the court’s own judgment in 1962, in the Kedar Nath case, which upheld Section 124A.

The CJI had drawn the attention of the Attorney General to the conviction rates under sedition. “If you look at the history of use of this Section 124A of IPC, you will find that the conviction rate is very low. There is misuse of power by executive agencies,” he had said.

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 5:27:31 pm |