Centre’s volte-face: Will re-examine constitutional validity of sedition law

The Centre on May 7 had defended the colonial-era, urging the Supreme Court to dismiss petitions challenging its constitutional validity

Barely 48 hours after urging the Supreme Court to dismiss petitions challenging the sedition law the Centre on Monday made a volte-face by submitting that it will re-examine and reconsider the constitutional provisions of the British-era legislation.

“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 re-examine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which can be done only before the competent forum,” the central government said in a fresh affidavit submitted to the apex court.

The affidavit was filed in response to a clutch of petitions filed by journalists, activists, NGOs and political leaders challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of IPC which criminalises sedition.

The Centre has urged the apex court “not to invest its time” in examining the constitutional validity of the said law, informing it that the government will do the same with the help of a “competent forum”.

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The government submitted that there contrary views by jurists, academics, intellectuals and citizens among the general public on Section 124A.

It said that the government has been working towards getting rid of the “colonial baggage” and as part of it has scrapped over 1500 obsolete laws since 2014.

“This is an ongoing process. These were laws and compliances which reeked of a colonial mindset and thus have no place in today’s India,” the Centre said in its affidavit.

The Supreme Court, in July last year, had asked the Centre why it was not scrapping the draconian law which was used by the British to arrest freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi.

During the hearing of the case on Saturday, the Centre defended the law, while referring to a 1962 verdict of a constitution bench which had upheld its validity.

“A constitutional bench has already examined all aspects of 124A in context of fundamental rights like right to equality and right to life,” the Centre told a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana.

The three-bench which also comprises Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli had said that it would hear the argument about sending the petitions challenging the law to a larger bench to reconsider the 1962 verdict, on Tuesday.

 

 

 

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