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Strike Down Sedition Law & Offending Provisions Of UAPA To Ensure Citizens Can Breathe Freely: Justice Nariman Urges Supreme Court

Justice Nariman recently asked the Hon’ble Supreme Court to repeal the British-era sedition laws and UAPA. The Renaissance man urged the Hon’ble Supreme Court to get it repealed and not depend on the Government

By: Sumaiya Laraib

Justice Rohinton Nariman, on Sunday 10th October, urged the Hon’ble Supreme Court to strike down the penal provision of sedition and certain specific portions of UAPA.

“I exhort the Supreme Court to not keep sending the case back to the government. Governments will come and go, and it is not the government’s business to start amending or repealing laws. There is a live case before the Supreme Court and it is important that the court use its power to strike down section 124A and the offending provisions of the UAPA to ensure that the citizens can breathe more freely. Maybe then India will move from 142 out of 180 to much higher “, he said.

It should be noted that India is known as the largest democracy but still India has not repealed sedition laws. Justice Nariman asked, “Against this backdrop, how can section 124A still be continuing in this large democracy?”

The Bangaobasi case was also mentioned by Justice Nariman, wherein sedition law was invoked in British India for publications. These particularly attacked the Age of Consent Act, 1891. 

Justice Nariman then spoke about the Tilak bomb blast case, wherein Tilak tried advocating for the bomb blast which resulted in him getting imprisoned for 6 years.

The former judge said that “the law was set up by a colonial minister to suppress free speech.”

Recently, the hon’ble SC has said it is necessary to define the limits of sedition as stated under section 124 of the IPC that whoever by words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added.

The historic Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar judgment is today the landmark judgment in matters related to sedition.

The IPC Section 124 A says, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

Justice Nariman also pointed out the Satara Trial which imposed Section 124 on an editor who published a seditious article against the British government. 

Lastly, he said, “There is a chilling effect on free speech. If you are booking persons, including journalists, under these laws which come with large sentences and no anticipatory bail, people would not speak their mind.”

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