The Supreme Court today said that it would hear arguments on May 10 on the legal question whether the pleas challenging the colonial era penal law on sedition be referred to a larger bench and granted time to the Centre to file its response.
A special bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli commenced hearing arguments on a batch of pleas against the sedition law and after sometime adjourned it to next Tuesday.
At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought a few more days' time for filing the reply, saying that the draft response made by lawyers awaits approval by competent authority as the issue is of extreme importance.
Secondly, some fresh matters have been served recently and the contents of those pleas also needed a response.
"List this matter on next Tuesday at 2 pm. The Solicitor General to file counter (affidavit) by Monday. No further adjournments (will be granted)", the CJI said.
The Bench will consider whether the cases are required to be heard by a larger Bench of 7 Judges, if the Court doubts the correctness of the 1962 Judgment of a 5 judge Bench in the matter of Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, that had upheld the provision.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal argued against referring the cases to a larger Bench. Senior Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan pointed out an instance when a smaller Bench of the Supreme Court had struck down a provision that had been upheld by a larger Bench.
The Bench, on April 27, had directed the Central government to file a reply saying it would commence the final hearing in the matter on May 5 and would not entertain any request for adjournment.
Concerned over the enormous misuse of the penal law on sedition, the top court in July last year had asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to silence people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress the freedom movement.
Agreeing to examine the pleas filed by the Editors Guild of India and former Major-General S G Vombatkere, challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, the apex court had said its main concern was the "misuse of law" leading to rise in the number of cases.
With PTI inputs