'Detained for wanting to recite Hanuman Chalisa', AG urges SC to lay down guidelines on sedition law
SC said it would hear arguments on May 10 on the legal question whether the pleas challenging the colonial era penal law on sedition be referred to a larger bench
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would hear arguments on May 10 on the legal question whether the pleas challenging the colonial era penal law on sedition be referred to a larger bench and granted time to the Centre to file its response.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal also urged the Supreme Court to lay down guidelines to prevent the misuse of the sedition law while citing the case of Maharashtra's Rana couple, who were arrested for threatening to protest outside Uddhav Thackeray's private residence.
Venugopal told the Supreme Court that sedition law is valid, and its misuse has been controlled, however he urged the court to lay down guidelines to prevent its misuse. He also opposed the reference of the cases against sedition law to a larger bench.
The AG defended before the Court the constitutional validity of Section 124A and the 1962 judgment of the top court in the Kedar Nath Singh case.
The Attorney General (AG) submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, "misuse (of the sedition law) is controlled...the question of reference (of Kedar Nath Singh case to a larger bench) does not arise. The Kedar Nath judgment is very balanced in view of freedom of speech and security of state..."
The AG urged the top court to retain the particular section (124 A) and lay down guidelines to prevent its misuse of the law.
"You've seen what's happening in the country...someone was detained as they wanted to recite Hanuman Chalisa, they've been released on bail...the single most important thing is what is permissible and what is not permissible... this is very important," the AG submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.
MP Navneet Rana and her husband Ravi Rana, were arrested for threatening to protest outside Uddhav Thackeray's private residence 'Matoshree' over the escalating Hanuman Chalisa row in the state. Opposing the sedition law, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing a petitioner, submitted, "colonial masters are gone, we are masters of our own destiny...we are free...no longer subjects of the crown."
A special bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya kant and Hima Kohli commenced hearing arguments on a batch of pleas against the sedition law and after sometime adjourned it to next Tuesday.
At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought few more days' time for filing the reply, saying the draft response made by lawyers awaits approval by competent authority as the issue is of extreme importance.
Secondly, some fresh matters have been served recently and the contents of those pleas also needed a response.
List this matter on next Tuesday at 2 pm. The Solicitor General to file counter (affidavit) by Monday. No further adjournments (will be granted), the CJI said.
The bench, on April 27, had directed the Central government to file the reply saying it would commence the final hearing in the matter on May 5 and would not entertain any request for adjournment.
Concerned over the enormous misuse of the penal law on sedition, the top court in July last year had asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to silence people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress the freedom movement.
Agreeing to examine the pleas filed by the Editors Guild of India and former Major-General S G Vombatkere, challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, the apex court had said its main concern was the "misuse of law" leading to rise in number of cases.
Published: 05 May 2022, 12:24 PM