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‘Used by British to silence Mahatma Gandhi, is it still needed?’: SC on sedition law

Is sedition law still needed after 75 years of
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Is sedition law still needed after 75 years of independence? the Supreme Court asked.

Sedition Law Supreme Court Hearing Update: The Supreme Court on Thursday described the sedition law as ‘colonial’ and as one which was used by the British against Mahatma Gandhi while issuing a notice to the Centre. Hearing a plea seeking to strike down Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises the offence of sedition, the apex court questioned the need of such a law even after 75 years of Independence. 

“Dispute is it is a colonial law and was used by British and suppress freedoms and used against Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Is this law still needed after 75 years of independence?” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana asked Attorney General KK Venugopal. 

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“If you see history of charging this section, conviction rate is very low. Alarming numbers of misuse 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. I will look into other cases referred to,” CJI Ramana observed. 

“Continuation of these type of laws after 75 years…the government has repealed a number of laws now. I don’t know why you are not looking into this,” he added. 

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”.

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“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.

(With inputs from PTI)

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