While posing a question to the Attorney General of India KK Venugopal during the hearing on a plea challenging the validity of the sedition law, the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana expressed alarm at the rampant misuse of sedition law in the country.
CJI NV Ramana on Thursday also expressed reservation at continuing the use of the provision (Section 124A of IPC), inserted during the colonial era in 1870, purportedly to curb dissent.
The top court was hearing a plea moved by SG Vombatkere, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the IPC, which lays down the punishment for the offence of sedition. The CJI-led bench also issued a notice to the central government and tagged the plea with a similar pending petition filed by the Editors Guild of India.
“This dispute about law is concerned, its colonial law, it was meant to suppress the freedom movement, the same law was used by British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak etc. Still is it necessary after 75 years of independence?” the CJI observed.
According to CJI, the continuation of these type of laws after 73 years of independence is unfortunate. “
“The Government is taking out many laws, I don’t know why they are not looking into this” he said.
He went on to say: : “If we go see history of charging of this section, the enormous power of this section can be compared to a carpenter being given a saw to make an item, uses it to cut the entire forest instead of a tree. That’s the effect of this provision. Unfortunately, the executing agency and particularly the authorities misuse it. Take example of 66A which was struck down but people were arrested. There is misuse of these provisions, but there is no accountability!”
According to Justice Ramana, the powers under Section 124A are so vast that a police officer who wants to fix anybody for playing cards, gambling, etc. can also invoke Section 124 A.
He even told AG that the gravity of the situation is so grim that if some State or a particular party doesn’t want to hear a voice, they will use this law to implicate such groups of people.
Meanwhile, Attorney General KK Venugopal responded to CJI Ramana by stating that section 124A of IPC need not be struck down and the court may only set out guidelines so that it meets its legal purpose.
However, CJI said to Attorney General about the costs of having sedition in the statute books. e said that having a sedition law is a serious question for the freedom of the individual.
A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit is also hearing a plea, as well as Intervention Applications, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A of the IPC, Live Law reported.