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Challenge to Sedition law: SC Hearing on May 10 to Decide if Petitions be Referred to Larger Bench

Attorney General KK Venugopal defended the constitutional validity of Section 124A and contended that the misuse of law has been brought under control.

Representational image. | Image Courtesy: The Leaflet

The Supreme Court will on May 10 hear arguments on whether the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with sedition, need to be referred to a larger bench. 

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said on Thursday there is already a decision of its Constitution Bench in 1962, which upheld the legal validity of the IPC provision and attempted to restrict its scope for misuse by demarcating the difference between the acts that amounted to sedition and that did not, the Indian Express reported

Notably, Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal, who is assisting the top court, defended the constitutional validity of Section 124A and the 1962 SC judgment in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar. He said that the judgment in Kedar Nath Singh upholding the validity of Section 124A is well-thought out and needs to be upheld, the Bar and Bench reported. 

Further, Venugopal also contended that the misuse of Section 124A has been brought under control. 

"Misuse of section has been controlled. But question of reference to larger bench does not arise as Kedar Nath judgment is a well balanced judgment. Judgment of Kedar Nath has to be upheld," he  submitted, according to Bar and Bench.  

The AG, however, said that guidelines were needed against the misuse of Section 124A and referred to the Maharashtra government slapping sedition charges on legislators Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana over the Hanuman Chalisa row in the state. 

The Central government is yet to file its official response to the plea.  

Justice Surya Kant reportedly asked, "In every writ petition there is a prayer to strike down Kedarnath and strike down 124A. You have to pursue us that even after 5-judge bench in Kedar Nath judgment, we (3-judge bench) can proceed to hear this?” Justice Kant also questioned whether the bench can proceed without referring the Kedar Nath judgment to a larger bench. 

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal submitted that many people are in jail because of the sedition law and it needs to be struck down since it was made by the British to protect their colonial rule. 

"We are in free India and we are not serving any masters. Each day a journalist or someone else spends in jail due to this then how does it fair. We are not subjects of the crown anymore," he said, according to Bar and Bench.  

Sibal further said that Section 124A can be struck down even without overruling Kedar Nath. "Section 124A can be struck down after observing the sea change in law as well. Kedarnath case confuse between state and government. 124 concerns with state and Article 19 concerns with government," he submitted, as per the report. 

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