Challenging the Validity of Sedition Law: Supreme Court Refers Section 124A to Constitution Bench
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In a significant development, the Supreme Court of India, on September 12, decided to refer petitions challenging the validity of Section 124A, commonly known as the sedition law, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to a Constitution Bench. This decision reflects the court’s recognition of the importance and complexity of the issue at hand.
Section 124A of the IPC has been a subject of debate and controversy due to its perceived misuse in curbing freedom of speech and expression. In May 2022, the Supreme Court had temporarily suspended the use of this section, giving the government an opportunity to review and reconsider the sedition law.
The Role of the Constitution Bench
The three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, made a crucial determination. They acknowledged that even if a prospective new law were to replace Section 124A, it would not negate the fact that there are numerous pending criminal proceedings under this section. This recognition underscores the complexity of the issue and the need for a comprehensive examination.
The Proposed Replacement
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, while not explicitly containing a Section 124A, introduces Section 150, which addresses offences related to “endangering sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.” This proposed provision in the new Bill refrains from using the term ‘sedition’ but still addresses acts that can potentially threaten the fundamental aspects of the nation.
However, it’s essential to note that even if a new law were to come into existence, the general principle in penal law is that it has a prospective effect and does not apply retrospectively. This means that existing criminal proceedings under Section 124A would continue to be governed by the law as it existed at the time when the alleged offences occurred.
Rejecting the Government’s Request
The Supreme Court’s decision to refer the petitions to a Constitution Bench came despite the government’s request to defer the case against Section 124A until the fate of the new Bill, currently under consideration by a parliamentary standing committee, is determined. This indicates the court’s determination to address the issue comprehensively and independently.
In conclusion, the referral of the challenge to the validity of Section 124A to a Constitution Bench is a significant step in the ongoing debate surrounding the sedition law in India. It reflects the court’s commitment to thoroughly examine the matter and make informed decisions that uphold the principles of justice, free speech, and the rule of law.
Source: The Hindu