Two draconian laws UAPA, sedition harmful for democracy: Former judge RF Nariman

Former Supreme Court judge Rohinton Fali Nariman on Sunday said that the Supreme Court should strike down the sedition law and “offensive portions” of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Former Supreme Court judge Rohinton Fali Nariman on Sunday said that the Supreme Court should strike down the sedition law and “offensive portions” of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

According to Nariman, the two draconian laws were harmful for democracy.

“Governments will come and go [but] it is important for the [Supreme] court to use its power and strike down [Indian Penal Code] section 124A and the offensive portion of [the] UAPA. Then citizens here would breathe more freely,” Nariman said at a function organised by Viswanath Pasayat Memorial Committee.

The veteran recounted that the sedition law was used during the British rule to put freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, in jail.

Gandhiji was sentenced to 6 years and he served 2 years. Jawaharlal Nehru too served years in 1932 and 1934 for sedition, Nariman added.

According to Nariman, India’s rank in the Global Law Index is 142 because of the draconian and colonial laws that still exist.

The sedition law and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, in particular, have a chilling effect on journalists, he claimed. “Nobel Peace Prize was given to two journalists from the Philippines. India’s rank there was 142… Why? This is more to do with India’s bank of colonial laws,” he said.

The former Supreme Court judge was referring to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, who were awarded the Nobel Prize for peace on Friday.

Nariman in his speech said that sedition was not there in the original Indian Penal Code (IPC) drafted by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay though it was present in his draft version.

“Sedition provision was there in draft but not in final book. But it was later discovered and re-drafted. It was said that this section was left out by oversight. The wordings were also vague. Sentence under 124A was enormous as it was transportation for life and imprisonment for three years,” he said.

Justice Nariman went on to say: “We had China and Pakistan wars. Thereafter we introduced the draconian legislation – Unlawful Activities Prohibition Act. Disaffection continues in the statute book and UAPA is a draconian act as it has no anticipatory bail and has a minimum five years imprisonment. This act is not under scanner yet. This too has to be looked into along with the sedition law.”