Wednesday 8 December 2021
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HomePoliticsIndiaSupreme Court asks if govt wants to retain 'colonial' sedition law

Supreme Court asks if govt wants to retain ‘colonial’ sedition law

The union government represented by A-G KK Venugopal appeared to concur with the concerns of the Supreme Court that was hearing a PIL

The Supreme Court today said that the sedition law was misused by police to fix persons who speak against the government. “Sedition provision Section 124A of IPC is a colonial-era which was used to silence dissent or protest against British and was used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Does the government want to retain it after 75 years of independence,” a Supreme Court bench led by CJI N V Ramana said.

The SC said “like 66A of I-T Act, quashed before it was abused to arrest thousands for airing their views, sedition law is misused by police to fix persons who speak against the government. There is no accountability for slapping sedition charge”.

Surprisingly, the union government through -General KK Venugopal appeared to agree with the concerns of the apex court. He said that the Supreme Court could lay down fresh guidelines to restrict the use of the sedition provision only for the protection of the nation and democratic institutions, a view aired by the CJI.

The Supreme Court was a plea by a former officer challenging the Constitutional validity of the sedition law on the ground that it causes a “chilling effect” on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right.

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court that once the union government files its counter-affidavit to the by retired major general SG Vombatkere, the court’s task will be easier, thus indicating that the Centre is more or less on the same page as the Supreme Court, which frowned at the misuse of section 124A.

CJI Ramana said that the situation on the ground was of concern. If a state government does not find the voice of opposition palatable, it slaps section 124A to implicate those groups of persons who raise their voice against government.

The -general conceded it is a serious issue and said the apex court could lay down more filters for use of Section 124 A apart from those specified by the Supreme Court in the 1962 Kedar Nath verdict. Petitioner Vombatkere said that freedom of speech had gained substantial ground and sedition should not be slapped for dissent.

At the request of the general, the CJI said pending petitions challenging the validity of Sec 124A of IPC would be tagged together. It issued notice to the union government on Vombatkere’s petition.

The court said the petitioner had served the country long and well in the and his plea could not be said to be motivated.

The plea, filed by major-general SG Vombatkere (Retd) submitted that Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with the offence of sedition, is wholly unconstitutional and should be “unequivocally and unambiguously struck down”.

“The petitioner contends that a statute criminalising expression based on unconstitutionally vague definitions of ‘disaffection towards Government’ etc. is an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and causes constitutionally impermissible ‘Chilling Effect’ on speech”, the plea said.


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