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Validity of sedition law: Supreme Court may form seven-judge bench

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, on behalf of the petitioners, contended that he is pressing for seven judges as the issue would require reconsidering the decision in Kedarnath vs State of Bihar case (1962).
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 22 November 2023, 14:46 IST
Last Updated : 22 November 2023, 14:46 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday indicated that it may refer to a seven-judge bench a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the IPC provision on sedition, carrying maximum penalty of life term on conviction.

A bench presided over by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said it would constitute an appropriate bench to hear the matter. The court appointed advocates Prasanna S and Pooja Dhar as nodal counsels to facilitate the compilation of case laws and other materials before the hearing.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, on behalf of the petitioners, contended that he is pressing for seven judges as this would require reconsidering the decision in Kedarnath vs State of Bihar case (1962). The bench said it will list the matter in January 2024.

On September 12, the SC had said it would refer the challenge to the validity of the sedition law under the IPC to a constitution bench of at least five judges. The apex court had then declined to entertain Centre's request to defer examining the validity of sedition provision under Section 124A of IPC, until the new penal law comes into the final shape.

In September, Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that the sedition provision has been revised in the new proposed penal code, which at present is pending consideration of a parliamentary standing committee.

However, it was contended that the enactment of a new law will not obviate the challenge to the constitutionality of 124A because a penal law cannot be retrospective.

The court had then said, “For more than one reason…124A continues to be on statute book and the new law in a penal statute will have only prospective effect and that validity of the prosecution remains till 124A remains and the challenge needs to be assessed thus."

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing one of the petitioners, had then submitted that the matter may be referred to a five-judge bench to reconsider the Kedarnath Singh case (five-judge bench judgment) or the present bench of three judges can decide it itself.

The bench had then said that it would have to form a five-judge bench since the previous five-judge bench judgment would be binding on it.

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Published 22 November 2023, 14:46 IST

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