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Ready to re-examine sedition law, Modi govt’s latest affidavit in SC

The ministry in its affidavit said the Prime Minister of India has been cognizant of various views expressed on the subject

New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs has told the Supreme Court that in spirit of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ and the Prime Minister’s unequivocal views in favour of protection of civil liberties and to shed colonial baggage, the government has decided to re-examine and re-consider the sedition law.

The ministry in its affidavit said the Prime Minister of India has been cognizant of various views expressed on the subject and has also periodically, in various forums, expressed his clear and unequivocal views in favour of protection of civil liberties, respect for human rights and giving to the constitutionally cherished freedoms to the people of the country.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) added that the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that one of India’s strengths is the diverse thought streams that beautifully flourish in the country.

The ministry said the Prime Minister believes that at a time when the nation is marking the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (75 years of Independence), as a nation it is essential to work harder to shed colonial baggage that passed its utility, which includes outdated colonial laws and practices.

“The Government of India, being fully cognizant of various views being expressed on the subject of sedition and also having considered the concerns of civil liberties and human rights, while committed to maintain and protect the sovereignty and integrity of this nation, has decided to re-examine and re-consider the provisions of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which can only be done before the competent forum,” said the affidavit.

The MHA said the government has scrapped 1,500 outdated laws since 2014-15, and also ended over 25,000 compliance burdens which were causing unnecessary hurdles to the people. The ministry said the top court may not invest time examining the validity of the Section 124A once again, rather wait for the exercise of reconsideration to be undertaken by the government before an appropriate forum where such reconsideration is constitutionally permitted.

The top court on Tuesday will hear petitions filed by Major General S.G. Vombatkere (retd) and the Editors Guild of India and others, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The Centre filed its response on these petitions.

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