The Supreme Court today referred to a Constitution bench a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of sedition law.
Turning down the Centre’s request to defer reference to larger bench, the top court directed its registry to submit the papers to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud so that a decision could be taken for constitution of the five-member bench.
The Supreme Court had on May 1 deferred the hearing on these pleas after the Centre had said it was at an advanced stage of consultation on re-examining the colonial-era provision.
Last month, in a landmark move, the Centre introduced three new Bills in parliament to overhaul the country’s criminal laws.
The controversial sedition law (Section 124 A of IPC) has been repealed and replaced with a section on acts endangering sovereignty, unity, and Integrity of India (Section 150), a copy of the Bill accessed by String Reveals shows.
“Whoever, purposely or knowingly, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or by electronic communication or by use of financial mean, or otherwise, excites or attempts to excite, secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities, or encourages feelings of separatist activities or endangers sovereignty or unity and integrity of India; or indulges in or commits any such act shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine,” Section 150 of the Bill says.
Two other Bills — the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, which will replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Bharatiya Sakshya, which will replace the Indian Evidence Act — were also introduced.
The sedition law was challenged before the Supreme Court, which last year suspended criminal trials and court proceedings under the law while allowing the government to reexamine it. The government then asked the Law Commission to review the law.
The Law Commission, in its report, strongly backed the sedition law and has said it should be retained with changes linked to the circumstances of its use.