New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce on Friday its verdict on a batch of petitions including by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy challenging the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code providing for criminal defamation.
The petitioners had argued that the criminal defamation under these sections of the IPC travelled beyond constitution’s article 19(2) that imposes reasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression.
On the other hand while describing the penal provisions as “deterrent”, the central government had defended their retention on the grounds that while in other countries, defamation cases are decided very fast, in India it takes years even decades before they reach conclusion.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had told the bench in the course of the hearing on July 8, 2015, that unlike in Britain where such cases are decided very fast, in India, it takes 10 to 20 years to decide them.
The verdict was reserved on August 13 last year after bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant heard the matter spread over a month.
The judgment will be pronounced by Justice Misra and may address the government’s plea that the challenge to the constitutional validity of the IPC sections should be referred to the constitution bench as the same was in the context of the reasonable restriction under article 19(2).
Rohatgi had said that there were sufficient safeguards in article 19(2) which imposed reasonable restrictions of the right to free expression and speech guaranteed under article 19.
The position was supported by amicus curiae T.R. Andhyarujina.

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