The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Monday that the colonial-era sedition law was undergoing advanced consultations.
A bench composed of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala postponed until the second week of August the hearing on a bundle of petitions challenging the sedition law under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
The collection of petitions contested the constitutionality of the penal provision. Attorney General R Venkataramani stated that the consultation process has reached an advanced stage and that he will be shown it before it is presented to Congress. “Kindly postpone the matter for further hearing after the Monsoon session of Parliament,” he pleaded with the bench.
Gopal Sankaranarayanan, a distinguished attorney, urged the court to appoint seven justices to hear the case. Even if the matter must be heard by seven judges, a five-judge bench must hear it first, according to the bench.
On 11 May 2022, the apex court placed the colonial-era penal law on sedition on hold until an “appropriate” government forum re-examines it and directed the Centre and states not to file any new FIRs invoking the offence. In addition to suspending the filing of FIRs, the country’s highest court halted all ongoing investigations, prospective trials, and proceedings under the sedition law.
Noting that the law has been subject to intense public scrutiny for its alleged use as a weapon to suppress dissent, including on social media, the bench emphasised the need to strike a balance between the interests of civil liberties and citizens and those of the State.
Sedition, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code for “creating disaffection towards the government,” was added to the penal code in 1890, 57 years prior to India’s independence and nearly 30 years after the IPC’s inception.
The number of sedition cases has been increasing, with Navneet and Ravi Rana, Arundhati Roy, Umar Khalid, and Siddique Kappan among those charged under the provision.
With inputs from PTI