The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to examine a fresh plea by a former army officer challenging the Constitutional validity of the sedition law on the ground that it causes “chilling effect" on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right. A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy directed the petitioner to serve a copy of the plea to the Attorney General K K Venugopal.
The plea, filed by Major-General S G Vombatkere (Retd) submitted that Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with the offence of sedition, is wholly unconstitutional and should be unequivocally and unambiguously struck down". The petitioner contends that a statute criminalising expression based on unconstitutionally vague definitions of ‘disaffection towards Government’ etc. is an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and causes constitutionally impermissible ‘Chilling Effect’ on speech", the plea said.
The petition said there is need to take into account the “march of the times and the development of the law" before dealing with Section 124-A. Earlier, a separate bench of the top court had sought response from the Centre on a plea challenging the Constitutional validity of sedition law, filed by two journalists — Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla — working in Manipur and Chhattisgarh respectively.