The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response to a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the validity of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises sedition. This is the second time in less than three months that such a plea has been placed before the court.
A three-judge bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee, and KM Joseph on Friday heard the plea and issued a notice to the Centre. The PIL was filed by two journalists, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha from Manipur and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla from Chhattisgarh, who said the provision violated the freedom of speech and expression.
Both Mr Wangkhemcha and Mr Shukla submitted that they were charged under Section 124A for raising questions against their respective state governments as well as the Centre. Cases were registered against them for comments and cartoons shared on the social networking website Facebook.
There has been frequent misuse, misapplication, and abuse of Section 124-A since 1962, the petition said. Its abuse by itself may not bear on the law’s validity but it clearly points to its vagueness and uncertainty, they pleaded. It also argued that the section exerts an unacceptable chilling effect on democratic freedoms.
Besides, sedition as a crime has been repealed in other post-colonial democracies, condemned as undemocratic, undesirable, and unnecessary, the plea said.
While citing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold its validity in the 1962 Kedar Nath Singh versus the State of Bihar case, the petitioner said it no longer passes constitutional muster.
The plea comes less than three months after the Supreme Court dismissed a similar plea by three lawyers challenging the provision.