The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Centre on the utility of having a sedition law even after 75 years of independence. The Court also expressed its concern on the sedition law being misused by police against persons who speak against the government.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said: “It is a colonial law used by the British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, Tilak. Still, it is necessary after 75 years of independence?” the Chief Justice told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, “I am indicating, what I am thinking.”
The bench cited the example of the continued usage of section 66A of the I-T Act, which was quashed, and emphasized the abuse of the law to arrest thousands for airing their views. The top court pointed out that the sedition law is also not immune to misuse by police against persons who speak against the government.
“It is like you give a saw to a carpenter, he will cut the entire forest. This is the impact of this law,” said the Chief Justice.
He further elaborated that police officers even in a village can invoke the sedition law, and all these issues are required to be examined. “My concern is the misuse of the law. There is no accountability of executing agencies. I will look into it,” said the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice told the AG that the government has already taken out several stale laws. “I don’t know why you are not looking into this law,” he said.
Venugopal replied that he completely understands the concern of the top court. He submitted that the top court could lay down fresh guidelines to restrict the use of the sedition provision only for the protection of the nation and democratic institutions. Venugopal emphasized that instead of taking out the entire law, parameters could be laid down on its usage.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that once the Centre files its counter-affidavit on the PIL by retired Major General S.G. Vombatkere, the court’s task will be easier.
The top court’s observations came on a plea by Mysuru-based Vombatkere challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
On July 12, another bench of the Supreme Court had sought response from the Centre and Attorney General on a plea challenging the constitutionality of the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.