A three-judge chaired by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana gave the government time till Wednesday to make its stand on this clear.
“Mr Mehta, till you will take 2 months, three months, whatever time, we do not know ultimately…Till this is cleared, why don’t…you as a central government through your ministry issue a direction to the state that the matters be kept in abeyance till that time,” Justice Surya Kant, sharing a three-judge bench chaired by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre.
The SG said he will take instructions.
The CJI hinted that the bench may consider the government’s request for time but asked how it will take care of pending and future cases involving section 124A.
“How long will it take for the reconsideration?” asked the CJI, to which Mehta said, “I may not be able to give an accurate reply. The process has started, that’s what I can say”.
“Your Lordships must have seen the affidavit, the tenor of the affidavit and the spirit of the affidavit, that it’s not just coming from the department. There is an application of mind…,” added the SG.
On the Centre’s request for time for re-examination, the CJI said, “Ok, we respect the interests of the government” and “will definitely try to accommodate you”.
I have added that “there are concerns” however about pending cases and cases in which the provision may be misused. He referred to Attorney General KK Venugopal’s submission about sedition being imposed on two legislators in Maharashtra for chanting Hanuman Chalisa and asked how the government is going to prevent these things.
Stating that it is “fully cognizant of the various views” being expressed on sedition law, the Center on Monday had told the Supreme Court that it “has decided to re-examine and re-consider the provisions of Section 124A (that deal with the offence)” and urged it to defer hearing on petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the law until such exercise is carried out “before an appropriate forum”.
In a brief affidavit, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “periodically, in various forums, expressed his unequivocal views in favor of protection of civil liberties, respect of human rights, and giving meaning to the constitutionally cherished freedoms by the people of the country”. The PM, it added, “has repeatedly said that one of India’s strengths is the diverse thought streams that beautifully flourish in our country”.