Centre defends sedition law, says past judgments binding on 3-judge SC bench

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Sunday defended the sedition law in front of the Supreme Court and said that “individual instances of misuse of Section 124A cannot be a ground for reconsideration of the law”.
It further told the SC that the 1962 verdict of the top court in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar — upholding the validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on sedition — is binding on a 3-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana that is currently hearing a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the colonial-era law.
The Kedar Nath Singh judgment of the Supreme Court which upheld the validity of Section 124A was rendered by a 5-judge Constitution bench.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear on May 10, arguments on whether the petitions challenging the validity of Section 124A has to be referred to a Constitution bench.

In a written submission, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has said that a 3- judge bench cannot hear legal challenge to the Constitutionality of Section 124A.
The note further stated that the Kedar Nath Singh judgement has stood the test of time and applied till date “in tune with modern constitutional principles and only a bench of co-equal strength of Kedar Nath Singh can pose any doubts on the verdict”.
Thus, for reconsideration of Kedar Nath Singh, the matter will have to be referred to a bench of 5-judges or more, it was contended.
Pertinently, the government submitted that individual instances of misuse of provision cannot be a ground for reconsideration of Kedar Nath Singh. Instances of the abuse of provision would never be a justification to reconsider a binding judgment of the Constitution bench, it was submitted.

The pleas challenging the sedition law were filed by five parties including the Editors Guild of India and Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra.
The Supreme Court had, while issuing notice in the matter in July 2021, questioned the Central government on whether the law was needed 75 years after independence. The court had also sought the assistance of the Attorney General in the matter.
AG KK Venugopal had earlier defended before the SC the Constitutional validity of Section 124A and the 1962 judgment.
What is Section 124A
Section 124A says a person commits the crime of sedition, if he/she brings or attempts to bring in hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in India.
It can be by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise.
It prescribes the maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The law on sedition was not there in the original IPC, which came into force in 1862. It was added to the Code in 1870 and its ambit was expanded in 1898 with a view to crush the freedom movement.
(With inputs from agencies)