SC to hear pleas challenging constitutionality of sedition in January

Last year, the apex court ordered a halt to FIRs, coercive measures, and investigations related to sedition, deeming it unsuitable for the current social context

Supreme Court of India (photo: National Herald archives)
Supreme Court of India (photo: National Herald archives)


The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will hear a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the colonial-era penal provision of sedition in January next year.

“List the case in January, 2024,” ordered a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, and justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

In terms of the standing operating procedure (SoP) issued by the apex court, the bench appointed one nodal counsel from each side to compile the written submission, case laws and other pleadings.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioners, urged the top court to list the batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC before a seven-judge bench. At this, CJI Chandrachud said he will pass relevant orders in the matter.

Earlier in September, the Supreme Court had ordered that its earlier judgment rendered in the Kedar Nath case upholding the constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC requires a reconsideration by a larger bench of a minimum of five judges.

In 1962, the Constitution Bench in the Kedar Nath Singh case had upheld the validity of Section 124A, saying the state needs protection from forces which seek to jeopardise its safety and stability.

On 11 May 2022, in a path-breaking order, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and all state governments to refrain from registering any FIR or taking any coercive measures, while suspending all continuing investigations in relation to Section 124A, and also directed that all pending trials, appeals, and proceedings be kept in abeyance.

The apex court in its prima facie observation had said the rigours of Section 124A were not in tune with the current social milieu and were intended for a time when the country was under a colonial regime.

The Law Commission, in its report to the government in June, had advocated for retention of the penal provision dealing with sedition, saying "colonial legacy" is not a valid ground for its repeal.

The panel recommended model guidelines curbing the misuse of Section I24A, and said amendments could be introduced to bring about greater clarity regarding the usage of the provision.

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