The Supreme Court has decided to examine the constitutional validity of section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 that penalises the crime of "sedition".
A three-judge bench of the top court, headed by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and also comprising Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice K M Joseph, issued a notice to the Union of India and sought its detailed response by July 12, 2021.
"Issue notice, returnable on July 12, 2021. Notice may additionally be served upon the office of the Attorney General (AG) for India," said the bench of the apex court, led by Justice Lalit and fixed the matter for further hearing to July 12, 2021.
These writ petitions were jointly filed by two journalists - Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiyalal Shukla -- from Manipur and Chhattisgarh respectively, and prayed for an appropriate writ, order or direction declaring Section 124-A of the IPC, 1860 to be unconstitutional and void.
Colin Gonsalves, counsel appearing for the two petitioners--Wangkhemcha and Shukla--submitted to the top court that the decision rendered by the Constitution Bench of this court in Kedar Nath Singh against State of Bihar, 1962, may require reconsideration.
The writ petition had been filed recently before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of section 124-A of the IPC 1860, which penalises the crime of "sedition".
"Section 124-A clearly infringes the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India which guarantees that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Section 124-A said that whoever by words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation, or otherwise, attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life," the petition said.
"The restriction imposed by section 124-A is unreasonable and therefore does not constitute a permissible restriction in terms of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Hence this petition is filed to pray that Section 124-A be declared unconstitutional and void by this Court and be struck out of the IPC," it said.
"Section 124-A is unnecessary to protect the interests of state security and public disorder and is duplicated by more recent legislation which directly and sufficiently prevents and deals with the mischief of public disorder and public violence," added the writ petition.
There exists no urgency justifying the employment of Section 124-A, given that the interests of state security and the public order are sufficiently protected elsewhere in Indian law, the petition said.
Section 124-A is a disproportionate imposition on the freedom of expression and fails to constitute the least restrictive means to protect state security and public disorder in this regard. The Section fails to meet the international standard of 'necessity' which India is under the obligation to meet as a party to the ICCPR, the petition said.
The said Section fails to meet the international standard of 'legality' which India is under the obligation meet as a party to the ICCPR; and the terms 'intention' and 'tendency' in the interpretation of Section 124-A are so subjective that the law is uncertain and unascertainable and are an invitation to abuse by authorities, the petition said.
The vagueness of Section 124-A exerts an unacceptable chilling effect on the democratic freedoms of individuals who cannot enjoy their legitimate democratic rights and freedoms for fear of life imprisonment, the petition said.
The Section 124-A is frequently abused and misapplied in India and it calls itself a 'democracy', and throughout the democratic world in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada and many others, the offense of sedition has been condemned as undemocratic, undesirable and unnecessary, the petition said.
( With inputs from ANI )
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