NEW DELHI: The central government's willingness to have a re-look at the law of sedition in the country is a welcome step, experts said on Monday.
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra said the legislature should have re-examined the relevance of sedition a long time ago and the Centre's stand before the Supreme Court is an important step in rights jurisprudence.
"The fact that the central government is willing to re-look is a very positive step. The Centre's willingness to re-look at the law of sedition and see whether the provision has any relevance in a democracy is a very important step in rights jurisprudence and it is something that the legislature should have done a long time ago, he said.
If the central government takes a real re-look from the point of view of rights, it will be helpful in curbing its misuse, the senior lawyer asserted.
The Centre Monday told the apex court that it has decided to go for reconsideration of the provisions by a competent forum and is cognizant of various views and concerns about civil liberties while being committed to protecting the sovereignty and integrity of this great nation .
The Centre, therefore, asked the Supreme Court to not to invest time in examining the validity of sedition law.
Senior advocate Mohit Mathur said that while it falls within the court's domain to test the constitutionality of a legal provision whenever a challenge is raised before it, the Centre may be given an opportunity to examine the issue at its end.
The senior lawyer, however, emphasised that such a reconsideration here has to be real re-consideration and not a dilatory thing .
"The law is dynamic and it has to go with the times. So the court has to examine and it should not be told not to examine. Right or wrong, it has to be decided until and unless the government is saying that it is taking some kind of a decision which could even go in the direction of repealing that provision, he said.
Advocate Sherbir Panag, a financial crimes lawyer, called the Centre's stand a step worth being applauded as he claimed that it is better if the law of sedition is dealt through the legislative process in a time-bound manner.
We can do a lot of whataboutery but the point is that no government in India, since independence, has come out in glory so far as sedition is concerned. Every government has used it to different degrees and that the government is willing to re-look at it is a step worth being applauded. And it is better if it goes through the legislative process -- whether it is to strike it down or modify or build in statutory safeguards. That all is yet to come. But the government saying allow us to re-look at it and hopefully they will do it in a time-bound manner is something that should be applauded, he said.
The Supreme Court has been hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the validity of the law on sedition which has been under intense public scrutiny for its alleged misuse to settle political scores by various governments.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in an affidavit, referred to the views of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on shedding colonial baggage and said he has been in favour of the protection of civil liberties and respect of human rights, and in that spirit, over 1,500 outdated laws and over 25,000 compliance burdens have been scrapped.
It said the prime minister has said that India, as a nation, has to work even harder to shed colonial baggage that has passed its utility which includes outdated laws and practices.
In another written submission, filed earlier, the Centre defended the penal law and the 1962 verdict of a constitution bench upholding its validity, saying they have withstood "the test of time" about six decades and the instances of its abuse would never be a justification of reconsideration.
The top court, in 1962, upheld the validity of the sedition law while attempting to restrict its scope for misuse.
"Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in [India], shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine," reads section 124A (sedition) of the IPC.