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September 27, 2023

The BJP on Tuesday accused the INDIA bloc of having a hidden agenda to attack Sanatan Dharma for its vote bank politics as it questioned the “silence” of opposition leaders amid frequent critical remarks by DMK leaders about the ancient faith. Firing a fresh salvo at the opposition over the issue, BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad targeted the Congress leadership saying the longer Sonia Gandhi maintains silence over the matter the more it will be clear that opposing Sanatan Dharma is part of the INDIA bloc’s common minimum programme. Prasad seized on a recent comment by a DMK leader that it is the bloc’s agenda to oppose Sanatan Dharma, and said what the Tamil Nadu leader has said is right. “The BJP will urge this alliance to come out with a categorical resolution that we completely disassociate ourselves (from DMK’s criticism) and this is not our agenda,” he said at a press conference. With the DMK linking Sanatan Dharma with the practice of caste discrimination among Hindus to justify its criticism, the BJP leader noted that temples dedicated to revered people from backward castes like Shabir, Kewat and saint Ravidas have been built.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred to a Constitution bench of at least five judges a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the colonial-era provision of sedition under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud declined the request of the Centre to defer the reference to a larger bench as Parliament is in the process of re-enacting the provisions of the penal code.

The bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, directed the apex court registry to place the papers before the CJI so that appropriate decision can be taken on the administrative side for constitution of a bench of “strength of at least five judges”.

The apex court had on May 1 deferred the hearing on these pleas after the Centre had said it was at an advanced stage of consultation on re-examining the penal provision.

On August 11, in a landmark move to overhaul colonial-era criminal laws, the Centre had introduced in the Lok Sabha three bills to replace the IPC, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act, proposing among other things the repeal of sedition law and introducing a new provision with a wider definition of the offence.

On May 11 last year, the top court had put on hold the penal law on sedition till an “appropriate” government forum re-examined it and directed the Centre and states to not register any fresh FIR invoking the provision.

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