India's Top Court Asks Federal Gov't to File Responses in Challenge to Sedition Law by Monday

Supreme Court of India - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.05.2022
The colonial British government had imposed the sedition law to suppress the writings and speeches of Indian freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak and others. The law was included in Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1870.
The Supreme Court of India on Thursday ordered the federal government to file its response in the challenge made against the colonial-era sedition law by 9 May, and scheduled the next hearing in the matter for 10 May.
The directive came in the light of a bunch of petitions that have demanded that the penal provision of a sedition in India be struck down.
While hearing the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealing with the offence of sedition, the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana also directed the petitioners to file responses by Saturday morning.
The country's top court also said it will examine whether the pleas challenging the sedition law should be sent to a constitutional bench of seven judges.
The court stated that this is because of a 1962 Constitution Bench ruling, which, while upholding the legal validity of the provision, attempted to restrict its scope for misuse by demarcating the difference between what sort of acts amounted to sedition and what do not.
The direction of the court came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the federal government, urged the court to give “any reasonable time” to draft the reply.
Mehta argued that the reply has been drafted at the lawyers' level but was awaiting government's approval.
He also mentioned that "fresh matters" have been filed in the case and requested more time, considering the nature of the matter and its repercussions.
On 27 April, the top court had asked the Federal government to file the response, saying that the final hearing in the matter will be on 5 May and no request for adjournment will be entertained.
However, on 2 May, the federal government said that it required more time as the draft response was ready but approval from "competent authority" was yet to come.
Concerned over the misuse of the penal law on sedition, the apex court had first issued a notice to the federal government in July 2021 and asked why it was not repealing the provision that criminalises sedition.
Several pleas were filed challenging the sedition law including by the Editors Guild of India, former Major-General S.G. Vombatkere, and Trinamool Congress Parliamentarian Mahua Moitra.
The pleas challenging the sedition law have cited it as "unconstitutional" and demanded that it should be struck down since it was a colonial law to protect their rule in India.
Whereas, Federal government's top law officer Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the entire sedition law should not be stuck down but there is need of guidelines on this section.
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