The Supreme Court today granted the Centre more time to file its response in the challenge to the sedition law. The top court said it will examine whether the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the sedition law should be sent to a constitutional bench of seven judges. While hearing the matter today, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana directed the petitioners to file responses by Saturday morning and ordered the Centre to file counter-affidavits by Monday morning. The matter will next be heard on Tuesday, May 10, at 2 pm.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had urged the court to give “any reasonable time” to draft their reply. He argued that the reply has been drafted at the lawyers’ level but was awaiting approval from the government. He also mentioned that “fresh matters” have been filed in the case and requested more time given the nature of the matter and its repercussions.
The Attorney General, who was issued a separate notice by the petitioners, said he was ready to argue the matter but Mr Mehta intervened saying he was representing the Centre and the AG’s response might be different as he was appearing in a personal capacity.
The pleas challenging the colonial-era sedition law were filed by five parties including the Editors Guild of India and Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra.
The court reminded the Centre that the notice was issued 9-10 months ago. “If everyday people want to file (fresh cases) then we can’t do anything, but we did give notice several months ago,” the court said after the Centre mentioned fresh matters as the reason for the delay.
“This is about examining legal provisions. We can argue the matter,” the court said.
Appearing for the Editors Guild, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal said it was about the question of law. “Colonial masters do not control us anymore. We own our own destiny,” Mr Sibal said while giving details about earlier judgements on sedition.
“So many people are in jail. Every day spent in jail by a student or journalist because of sedition law is against the very idea of India,” Mr Sibal argued.