NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has decided to hear in January next year a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the colonial-era penal provision of sedition under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).Earlier, the apex court had declined the Central government’s request to await Parliament’s decision on the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, which is to replace the IPC, observing that the new law would have “prospective application” and govern the cases filed after it is brought into effect.
During Wednesday’s hearing before a bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, petitioner’s counsel senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan prayed that the pleas be listed before a seven-judge bench. The Chief Justice said he would constitute an appropriate bench to hear the case.
The bench appointed advocates Prasanna S and Pooja Dhar as nodal counsels to facilitate the compilation of case laws and other statutory materials before the hearing. Earlier, the SC had said that if the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill — which proposes, among other things, the repeal of the sedition law and introduction of a new provision with a wider definition of the offence — becomes a law, it cannot be applied with retrospective effect.
In the previous hearing, the court said that the Centre is not planning to delete the provision but have it in a new form. “There is no way we can avoid judging the constitutionality of the Section 124A,” it had said.
It had noted the constitutional validity of Section 124A was tested by the SC on the basis of a challenge that it was ultra vires to Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution in the 1962 judgment of Kedar Nath Singh versus State of Bihar.
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‘Should larger bench hear ‘22 ED verdict?’
The apex court said its “limited ambit” was if the 2022 verdict that had upheld the Enforcement Directorate’s powers to attach property involved in money laundering was to be reconsidered by a larger bench of five judges. It was hearing pleas seeking reconsideration of the July 27, 2022 verdict of a three-judge bench.