Earlier this week on 15th July 2021, Thursday, the Supreme Court asked the government if the provision of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as “IPC, 1860”) was still necessary after 75 years of independence.
Hon’ble Chief Justice of India NV Ramana noted that it is currently being misused when someone does not agree with someone else’s point of view and there is no responsibility from the executive.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy were considering a petition submitted by former army veteran SG Vombatkere, who said the provision violated the right to free speech and expression and was disproportionate to the goal it sought to achieve. The court also tagged a similar pending petition filed by the Editors Guild of India.
“The dispute revolves around the fact that it’s colonial legislation that was adopted by the British to suppress freedoms and was used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Is it still necessary to have this law after 75 years of independence?”
Several laws have now been abolished by the administration. “I’m not sure why you’re not investigating this,” the Court stated.
The Court requested the Attorney General’s intervention in the situation. Attorney General KK Venugopal said that striking down the provision might not be necessary when the case was heard on Thursday.
“This section does not need to be knocked down; only guidelines should be established so that the section fulfills its legal purpose,” AG argued.
“If one side does not want to hear the other’s voice, they can utilize this form of law to accuse others.” The Court went on to say, “It’s a severe question for (individual) freedom.”
Chief Justice Ramana criticized the use of sedition, saying, “It’s like handing a carpenter a saw to chop a piece of wood, and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself.”
The CJI went on to say that he is not accusing any state or government of abusing the provision, but rather the provision itself “Regrettably, the executing agency and, more specifically, the authorities abuse it. Take, for example, 66A, which was declared unconstitutional but even after it people were arrested. These provisions are being abused, but no one is held accountable!”
The Central government was then issued with a notice by the Bench. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta accepted the notice on behalf of the union.
A bench is also hearing a petition and Intervention Applications challenging Section 124A of the IPC’s constitutional validity which is led by Justice UU Lalit. The Court had issued a notice in the petition filed by two journalists from the states of Manipur and Chhattisgarh on 30th April. The Court had requested the Attorney General’s response to the lawsuit on 12th July and had adjourned the case until 27th July. Respondents have been given two weeks to file their responses.