Justice Rohinton Nariman, a former Supreme Court judge, has asked the court to strike down obnoxious sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises sedition.
The Supreme Court, according to Justice Nariman, should not rely on the government to remove the offending laws from the statute books, but rather exercise its judicial review powers to strike down the law, allowing citizens to breathe more freely.
“I would urge the Supreme Court not to remand any sedition matters that are currently before it to the Centre. Governments come and go, but it is critical that the court exercise its authority and strike down Section 124A and the objectionable provisions of the UAPA. The people of this city would then be able to breathe more freely “he stated
On Sunday, he spoke at a gathering hosted by the Viswanath Pasayat Memorial Committee.
In his statement, Justice Nariman stated that sedition was not included in Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay’s original draught of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), despite the fact that it was included in his draught version.
The British utilised the law against Indians, including notable freedom fighters, according to Justice Nariman.
“There was the Bangobasi case, for example. In that case, an editor of the Bangobasi daily was charged with publishing an article criticising the age of consent act as it applied to child marriages. According to the author of the essay, child marriage is a part of Indian tradition. The British judge was unconvinced and ruled that the editor was responsible under Section 124A “According to Justice Nariman.
He also discussed how anti-colonial leaders like as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru were charged with sedition for speaking out against the colonial administration.
Gandhiji was condemned to six years in prison, of which he served two years. In 1932 and 1934, Jawaharlal Nehru also served time for sedition, according to Nariman.
He also discussed how Tilak was tried for sedition on multiple occasions, with Mohammad Ali Jinnah serving as Tilak’s defence attorney on one of those occasions.
Sedition was originally included in the exemption to free expression under draught Article 19 of the Constitution, according to the former judge.
It was heavily disputed before it was removed from the Constitution. However, it was still included in the Indian Penal Code.
After India’s wars with Pakistan and China, Justice Nariman outlined how UAPA came into being.
“We had battles with China and Pakistan. Following that, we enacted the harsh Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. UAPA is a harsh law with no anticipatory bail and a minimum sentence of five years in prison. This Act has not yet been scrutinised. This, as well as the sedition law, must be investigated “he stated.
In an interesting twist, Justice Nariman also mentioned how the RSS-backed Organiser magazine was subjected to pre-censorship by the Nehru administration in 1950 for criticising the government.
The sedition statute and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have a stifling effect on journalists, according to Justice Nariman, who is requesting the Supreme Court to review and strike down the two laws.