What is the need for ‘colonial’ sedition law, CJI to government
Chief Justice of India N. V. Ramana has done the unprecedented – he has judicially questioned the need of the sedition law even after 75 years of independence. The CJI questioned the central government that why is the “colonial law” required in India was used against Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi.
CJI Ramana was heading a three-judge bench, addressed Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were appearing for the Centre. He said, “Sedition is a colonial law. It suppresses freedoms. It was used against Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak… Is this law necessary after 75 years of Independence?” He added that sedition law or Section 124A of the Indian Penal Court is highly predisposed to be misused by the government.
The oral statement by CJI holds significance with a rising public offense against law enforcement in centers and States trying to silence dissent, stopping free expression as well as denying bail to arrested activists, journalists, and members of civil society. Multiple petitions have already been filed in courts underscoring the effect sedition law has on the freedom of speech fundamental right.
“If you look at the history of use of this Section 124A of IPC, you will find that the conviction rate is very low. There is a misuse of power by executive agencies,” the Chief Justice said.
CJI further questioned that why this particular law hasn’t been thrown out of the window by the government while many other “stale laws” have been deleted from the statute books. “Your government is taking out a lot of stale laws from the law books, why have they not looked into this,” Chief Justice Ramana asked.
Chief Justice Ramana further noted how extremely this law has made people and their families suffer. “We are not blaming any particular government or State. But do look at how Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is continuing to be used… How many unfortunate people have suffered? And there is no accountability for all this…” he noted.
Worrying situation – time to act now
Chief Justice said that the Supreme Court would be looking deeply into the concerns around Section 124A. “The situation on the ground is grave… If one party does not like what the other is saying, Section 124A is used… It is a serious threat to the functioning of individuals and parties,” Chief Justice Ramana noted.
Mr. Venugopal said that there is no need for the court to completely strike down Section 124A. “It is enough to see if there were any excesses in its use and limit the Section to its real purpose… That would be enough,” Mr. Venugopal said.