Sedition #5: Union May Reconsider Law in Winter Session of ParliamentConstitutionality of Sedition
Chief Justice U.U. Lalit, along with Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela Trivedi, heard challenges to Section 124A the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which criminalises sedition today. Former CJI Ramana ordered an interim stay on the colonial law after the Union stated that it is in the process of reconsidering the law on May 11th, 2022. CJI Lalit declined to interfere with the interim stay today, stating that it is sufficient to prevent misuse of the law while the Union undertakes its reconsideration.
CJI Ramana’s Interim Order stated that the Union and States must pause all pending proceedings & refrain from starting new proceedings under S 124A until the reconsideration is complete. Today Attorney General Mr. R. Venkatramani informed the Court that the Union will ‘probably’ reconsider S 124A in next Parliament session this winter.
Lawyers challenging sedition informed the Court that the Interim Order is ambiguous. It does not expressly stop States from registering new sedition FIRs. Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj argued that the only way to prevent misuse of sedition is to repeal the law, suggesting that delays in these hearings are harmful.
AG Venkatramani assured the Court that the Union government had issued directives clarifying that no police authorities should register any new FIRs or take any other coercive action under S 124A while the Union reconsiders it. He stated that non-compliance with the Interim Order from any part of the country had not come to his attention since May 2022.
Upon Mr Venkatramani’s assurance, CJI Lalit noted that the Interim Order is sufficient and requires no further intervention from the Court.
Much like the last hearing, the Union has not disclosed a definitive timeline or plan for its reconsideration of S 124A. The next hearing will likely be after the Winter Session of the Parliament.