Supreme Court Seeks Centre’s View On Petition to Strike Down Section 124A of IPC as Unconstitutional

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The Hon’ble Supreme Court adjourned the matter pertaining to the petition that challenged the constitutional validity of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sought responses from the Centre regarding striking down of the sedition law.

Facts of the Case

A writ petition was filed by two journalists under Article 32 of the Constitution of India on April 30, 2021, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) which penalizes the crime of ‘sedition.’ Additionally, an intervention application was filed by Sashi Kumar, founder of Asianet and current chairman of Asian School of Journalism, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124-A of IPC. According to Sashi Kumar, Section 124-A of IPC had a chilling effect on free speech as it was being applied in a “politicized fashion.”

The petitions were filed in light of the recent surge in sedition cases. Accordingly, the matter was listed to e heard by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 12th July 2021.

Arguments before the Court

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In the original petition, it was contended by the petitioners that Section 124-A of the IPC was in violation of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India which guarantees freedom of speech and expression to its citizens. According to the petitioners, the restriction imposed by Section 124-A of IPC did not come within the purview of the reasonable restrictions enumerated under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. Referring to the decision of the Court in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962), the petitioners contended that while the Hon’ble Supreme Court may have been correct in its finding nearly sixty years ago, Section 124-A no longer passes constitutional muster today.” It was also contended that the petitioners were charged with sedition for criticizing political leaders, sharing cartoons etc. and that it was frivolous.

Observations of the Court

The Solicitor-General representing the Centre requested a period of two weeks for filing their response. Therefore, the Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and Ajay Rastogi granted the Solicitor-General two weeks time. Furthermore, on 30th April 2021, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had issued a notice to Attorney General seeking a reply from the Centre pertaining to its view on quashing Section 124-A of IPC. The Court allowed the Attorney-General to file his written submissions before the next hearing.

Court’s Decision

The Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and Ajay Rastogi granted time to submit responses and posted the matter to be heard on 27th July 2021.

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