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SC asks Centre how it will deal with pending and future sedition cases till it reconsiders law

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the central government to clarify by Wednesday as to what would happen to pending and future sedition cases after the Centre decided to re-examine and reconsider the validity of section 124A (sedition law) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana orally remarked that normally when the state is saying they are examining something, the SC should not consider it.

The court, however, asked the Solicitor General to respond on the issues concerning pending and future cases. The matter would be heard on Wednesday.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the government will be re-examining the provision and the hearing should be adjourned till it conducts the exercise.

He argued that this reconsideration will be at the level of the executive because it also involves the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the petitioners said that people are being arrested because of this provision and this would not be right for them.

“The constitution does not say this… It is for the judiciary to consider whether something is constitutional or not… Kedarnath is based on federal court judgement. That is why it says the state is government. Then when the state became the republic hence making it a separate entity. state and government are not the same thing now…,” he added.

Justice Surya Kant asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta how the use of the provision will be dealt with at the ground level as the local police operates it the most.

“In Kedar Nath, the provision was melted down. But at ground level, who is operating the law? The local police is operating unless you issue a direction that you are reconsidering the provision and no cases be registered…If something serious happens, there are other penal laws to take care of it,” he said to the SG.

The central government in a fresh affidavit before the Supreme Court had said that it has decided to reconsider and re-examine the provision (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code, 1860) dealing with the sedition law.

The Union government had asked the top court to await the exercise of reconsideration of examining the validity of the law.

“In view of the aforesaid it is respectfully submitted that this Hon’ble court may not invest time in examining the validity of section 124A of the IPC once again and be pleased to await the exercise of reconsideration to be undertaken by the Government of India before an appropriate forum where such reconsideration is constitutionally permitted,” the affidavit reads.

The central government has said that it is committed to maintaining and protecting the sovereignty of the nation as well as removing outdated colonial laws.

When the country is celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years since independence) the government is working to shed colonial baggage, it said.

In that spirit, the government of India has scrapped over 1,500 outdated laws since 2014-15, it added.

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“It has also ended over 25,000 compliance burdens which were causing unnecessary hurdles to the people of our country. Various offences which were causing mindless hindrances to people have been de-criminalised. This is an ongoing process. These were laws and compliances which reeked of a colonial mindset and thus have no place in today’s India,” the Centre said.

The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.