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Sedition : Army Veteran Moves Supreme Court Challenging Section 124A IPC; Plea To Be Heard Tomorrow

Radhika Roy
14 July 2021 6:56 AM GMT
Sedition : Army Veteran Moves Supreme Court Challenging Section 124A IPC; Plea To Be Heard Tomorrow
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Army veteran Major-General SG Vombatkere (Retired) has approached the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code for being 'vague' and creating a 'chilling effect on free speech'. The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Petitioner to serve a copy of the plea to the Attorney-General for India. The matter...

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Army veteran Major-General SG Vombatkere (Retired) has approached the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code for being 'vague' and creating a 'chilling effect on free speech'.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Petitioner to serve a copy of the plea to the Attorney-General for India.  The matter will now be taken up tomorrow. A Bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy presided over the matter.

The bench directed the petitioner's counsel PB Suresh to serve a copy upon the AG.

The plea, filed on behalf of Major-General SG Vombatkere (Retd.) through Advocate Prasanna S, submits that Section 124A of the IPC is ultra vires Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, read with Articles 14 and 21, and was upheld, after a partial reading down, in the 1962 judgement of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar.

The plea argues that the provision is wholly unconstitutional as the reasoning which was employed in Kedar Nath Singh has been overruled by larger Constitutional Bench judgments such as RC Cooper v. Union of India, Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain, IR Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu and Puttaswamy v. Union of India "which have expanded the scope, extent and the inter-relationship between Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. In the changed legal and constitutional landsape, the said provision ought to be unequivocally and unambiguously struck down".

It has further been submitted that every citizen is entitled to fundamental rights provided in Part III of the Constitution, and in the case of Article 19(1)(a), the only restrictions that are imposed on this fundamental right are envisaged under Article 19(2). The impugned provision, however, makes every speech or expression which is considered seditious into a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

"The Petitioner contends that a statute criminalizing expression based on unconstitutionally vague definitions of 'disaffection towards Government' etc. is an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and causes constitutionally impermissible 'Chilling Effect' on speech", contends the plea.

The petition goes on to state that there is need to take into account the "march of the times and the development of the law" before dealing with Section 124A as there has been a sea of change in the interpretation of the Golden Triangle of fundamental rights – Articles 14, 19 and 21.

In light of the above, the plea prays seeks for the Supreme Court to consider afresh the question regarding the constitutionality of Section 124A – "unconstrained by the upholding of it in Kedar Nath, considering the reason therein having been impliedly overruled, and hold that the Impugned Provision is ultra vires Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution read with Articles 14 and 19".

A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit is also hearing a plea, as well as Intervention Applications, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the IPC. On 30 April, the Court had issued notice in the plea filed by two journalists working in the States of Manipur and Chhattisgarh.

On 12 July, the Court had sought the response of the AG in the case, and had adjourned the matter to July 27. Two weeks have been granted to the Respondents to file their responses.





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