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Take sedition law stand soon: Apex court asks Centre

Matter to be disposed of through daylong hearings on May 5 and 6
Supreme Court.
Supreme Court.
File photo

R. Balaji   |   New Delhi   |   Published 28.04.22, 02:24 AM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to finalise by the weekend its stance on continuing with the British-era sedition law.

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

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

At the previous hearing last July, Chief Justice of India 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, then why has this law not been considered (for removal)?”

When the matter came up on Wednesday, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta sought “two days” to file the government’s response.

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

While Mehta will represent the government, attorney-general K.K. Venugopal will assist the court. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing 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.


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