Supreme Court agrees to take up Fresh Plea challenging Sedition Law

The topmost court has agreed to examine a fresh plea challenging the constitutional validity of the sedition law. The plea, filed by Major-General S.G. Vombatkere (Retd) submitted that Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code is "wholly unconstitutional and should be unequivocally and unambiguously struck down".

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A bench headed by Justice N. V. Ramana and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy told advocate P.B. Suresh, representing the petitioner, to serve a copy of the petition to the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal. The bench will conduct a hearing on the matter tomorrow.

The petitioner contends that a statute criminalizing expression based on unconstitutionally vague definitions of ‘disaffection towards Government’ etc. is an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and causes constitutionally impermissible ‘Chilling Effect’ on speech”, the plea said.

The petition said there is a need to consider the "march of the times and the development of the law" before dealing with Section 124-A.

"The restriction imposed by the section is unreasonable, and therefore does not make up a permissible restriction in terms of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Hence this petition is filed to humbly pray that Section 124-A be declared unconstitutional and void by this Hon'ble Court and be struck out of the Indian Penal Code"

— From the petition filed by Major-General S.G. Vombatkere (Retd)

On July 12, another bench of the Supreme Court had sought response from the Centre and Attorney General on a plea challenging the constitutionality of the offense of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.

The main writ petition, filed through Advocate Tanima Kishore and drawn by advocate Siddharth Seem on behalf of the petitioner journalists Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla, argues the impugned section clearly infringes the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India which guarantees that "all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression".

A bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and Ajay Rastogi were hearing a writ petition filed by two journalists, each from Manipur and Chhattisgarh, challenging the constitutionality of the offense of sedition. The top court had issued notice to the Attorney General (AG) on the petition on April 30.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, urged the top court to grant two weeks to file their responses. The bench granted them two weeks' time and adjourned the matter for further hearing on July 27.

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