In a written submission filed by solicitor general Tushar Mehta on the question of whether the batch of petition challenging validity of sedition law be referred to a constitution bench, the Centre said that the 1962 verdict has stood the test of the time and needs no reconsideration. Mehta said that misuse of the provision as alleged by the petitioners could never be a ground to strike it down and the remedy would lie in preventing its abuse.
“The said judgment in Kedar Nath Singh is a good law and needs no reconsideration. It must be treated as binding precedent requiring no reference. A holistic reading of the judgement clearly reveals that the Constitution Bench considered the constitutional validity of Section 124A from the perspective of all constitutional principles including the test of Article 14, 19, 21. Merely because Article 14 and 21 are not mentioned, would not undermine its final judicial conclusion. The five judge bench read down Section 124A only to bring it in conformity with Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. No reference, therefore, would be necessary nor can the three Judge Bench once again examine the constitutional validity of the very same provision,” the SG said in his submission.
Though the written submission has been filed on the issue of reference and the Centre is yet to file an affidavit which it will have to do on Monday as directed by SC but the submission makes Centre’s stand clear that it is against scrapping of sedition law, a stand similar to what Attorney General K K Venugopal took days before in court and batted for retention of the controversial provision in the law book
Countering the allegation that the the provision was brought in the law by the colonial masters and lost its relevance in independent country, Mehta saif that Kedar Nath Singh was decided post-independence and the case was decided with a clear backdrop and experience of how Section 124A used to operate prior to independence and the the apex court had consciously read down the provision.
“The ratio in Kedar Nath Singh has been analysed, tested and elaborated subsequently by this Hon‘ble Court in several cases. The latest in line is the judgment in the Vinod Dua case in 2021. It is a settled position in law that a judgment which withstood the test of time and has been followed not mechanically but in the context of changing circumstances, cannot be easily doubted,” he said..
He said that a holistic reading 1962 judgement showed that the Constitution Bench has examined the constitutionality from all possible angles and there was no requirement to re-examine it. He said that in case the court decided to re-examine then it must be done by a larger bench and not by a three judge bench.
“Instances of the abuse of provision would never be a justification to reconsider a binding judgment of the constitution bench. The remedy would lie in preventing such abuse on a case-to-case basis rather than doubting a long standing settled law declared by a constitution bench for about six decades,” he said.