Pinnacle court asks union to take sedition law stand soon

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Issue to be delivered through daylong hearings on 5th and 6th May

The Apex court today asked the Union to finalise by this weekend its stance on resuming with the British-era sedition law.

The top bench made it clear that no further case hearings would be granted and the matter would be finally disposed of through daylong hearings on May 5 and 6.

Many petitioners, including rights defenders and journalists association, have challenged the constitutional validity of the sedition law, Section 124A of the penal code, which is being rapidly growing used against the government’s critics.

In an earlier case listing ast July, CJI N.V. Ramana had asked: “Does the government want to retain it after 75 years of independence? The government has been taking out stale laws from statute books, so why has this law not been considered (for removal)?”

When the issue came in front of the court on Wednesday, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta sought “2 days” to file the government’s response.

“Please file whatever you file by this weekend. We will hear this finally on 5th and 6th May and no adjournments. We will have a whole-day hearing,” CJI, heading a bench that included Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said.

While Mehta will argue for the government, the attorney-general will assist the court. 

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, arguing for main petitioner S.G. Vombatkere, a retired army officer, will lead the arguments on the petitioners’ side.

A five-judge constitution bench had in 1962 upheld the constitutional validity of Section 124A. But Vombatkere has sought that the 1962 judgment be revisited in the light of various larger-bench judgments upholding free speech, including the nine-judge ruling in 2017 that upheld privacy as a fundamental right.