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Pleas on defamation laws should be sent to constitution bench: Govt

The petitions of political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Subramanian Swamy and Arvind Kejriwal, challenging the validity of penal provisions on defamation, should be referred to a constitution bench, <g data-gr-id="28">government</g> on Wednesday told the Supreme Court.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant, while granting three days to the Centre to file response to the petitions, dealt with the submission for sending them to larger bench and said "in our considered opinion, the said <g data-gr-id="24">facet</g> shall be addressed to and dealt with while dealing with the merits of the case." 

However, it also once asked during the hearing that two- judge benches have heard major petitions on gay rights and freedom of speech on social media, so "where is the need for constitution Bench".

Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi and Additional Solicitor General P S Narsimha, appearing for Centre, said the hearing by a constitution bench was needed as the cases relate to Article 19(2) (reasonable restrictions to freedom of speech) of the Constitution, with regard to sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation) of the IPC. Senior advocate T R Andhyarujina, who was appointed amicus curiae in the case, also supported "the view and perception of the Attorney General".

Fixing the bunch of pleas for hearing on July 14, the bench said it would look into the laws of other countries which have abolished criminal defamation and whether such a course can be adopted in the context of India. "In the writ petition, a contention has been raised that in <g data-gr-id="17">number</g> of countries, criminal defamation has been abolished. The question, thus, emerges whether abolition of such a criminal action in other countries can really have any impact or effect when this court adjudges or decides the constitutional validity of a statutory provision," it said.
Agencies

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