Complete the task of reconsideration of Sedition Law in a period of three-four months, SC tells govt
Rejecting the changed stand on sedition law, Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to appraise within 24 hours about the views on the issue of protection of citizens in sedition cases. The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of the submissions of the Centre that said it has decided to “re-examine and reconsider” the sedition law by an “appropriate forum” and sought the response to a suggestion on whether the filing of sedition cases in future be kept at abeyance till re-examination.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that he would take instruction from the government and apprise the bench on Wednesday. “We are making it very clear. We want instructions. We will give you time till tomorrow. Our specific queries are: one about pending cases and the second, as to how the government will take care of future cases…,” said the bench, comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli. The bench also asked the Centre’s response on the issue saying “if future cases can be kept at abeyance till reconsideration is over”.
“We have perused the affidavit by the respondent (Central government). Meanwhile, to protect the interest of the people already booked under 124A as well as the future of this provision, SG will take instructions whether cases can be kept in abeyance till further time till reconsideration is over,” the Court said in its order giving Centre a day to clarify.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal opposed the Centre’s new affidavit on plans to re-consider sedition law and said the Court should proceed to decide the validity irrespective of whether the government is examining the provision or not. “This court cannot wait for another jurisdiction. It is for the judiciary to consider Constitutional or not,” he said.
The CJI asked the SG how much time the government would take to complete the exercise. “I won’t able to give an accurate time frame. The process has started. Please see the tenor and spirit of the affidavit,” said SG Mehta.
The bench asked whether the Centre can issue directions to States to keep all sedition proceedings in abeyance till the Union government completes its exercise of reviewing the provision. “You complete this task in three months or four months, but till such period, why don’t you direct the states that matter under 124A be kept in abeyance till the Centre finishes the process of reconsideration,” Justice Kant asked.
“Why as Central government, you don’t indicate the states that since you are applying your mind to it, not to take action under the sedition law,” observed Justice Kohli.
Ministry of Home Affairs in an affidavit filed before the apex court on Monday said the decision was in tune with the views of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on shedding “colonial baggage”, noting he has been in favor of the protection of civil liberties and respect of human rights and in that spirit, over 1,500 outdated laws and over 25,000 compliance burdens have been scrapped. For the past nine months Centre has not filed its version to the court on a series of petitions seeking to stop the misuse of sedition law. On Saturday, the Centre filed an affidavit supporting the sedition law pointing out the landmark judgment, (Kedarnath Saini case of 1962) which upheld the need for the sedition law.
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