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'Colonial Sedition Law Still Needed After 75 Years of Independence?' Supreme Court Issues Notice to Centre

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India

The petition said there is need to take into account the "march of the times and the development of the law" before dealing with Section 124-A.

While hearing a fresh plea on the sedition law, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre and said, " Is this law still needed after 75 years of independence?"

Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana observed, “Sedition is a colonial law and was used by British and suppress freedoms and used against Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak."

“If you see history of charging this section, conviction rate is very low. alarming numbers of misuse," he added.

SC said the situation can be compared to a carpenter using a saw to cut a tree but the entire forest. “Our concern is misuse of the law and no accountability of the executive," said the Apex Court.

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The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to examine a fresh plea by a former army officer challenging the Constitutional validity of the sedition law on the ground that it causes “chilling effect" on speech and is an unreasonable restriction on free expression, a fundamental right.

A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy directed the petitioner to serve a copy of the plea to the Attorney General K K Venugopal.

The plea, filed by Major-General S G Vombatkere (Retd) submitted that Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with the offence of sedition, is wholly unconstitutional and should be unequivocally and unambiguously struck down".

The petitioner contends that a statute criminalising expression based on unconstitutionally vague definitions of ‘disaffection towards Government’ etc. is an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to free expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and causes constitutionally impermissible ‘Chilling Effect’ on speech", the plea said.

The petition said there is need to take into account the “march of the times and the development of the law" before dealing with Section 124-A.

Earlier, a separate bench of the top court had sought response from the Centre on a plea challenging the Constitutional validity of sedition law, filed by two journalists, Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha and Kanhaiya Lal Shukla, working in Manipur and Chhattisgarh respectively.

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first published:July 15, 2021, 11:54 IST