The Supreme Court of India on Thursday expressed concern at the rampant and exploitative misuse of Sedition law in the country. CJI NV Ramana also expressed reservation at continuing the use of provision (SECTION 124A OF IPC), inserted during the colonial era in 1870,purportedly to curb dissent.
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises sedition is a provision which was used by the British to quell the voice of Indian freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak before the country gained independence, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday.
"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? Our concern is misuse of the law and no accountability of the executive," CJI Ramana said.
He indicated that continuation of these type of laws after 73 years of Independence is unfortunate. "I don't know why they are not looking into this",he said.
The Court was hearing a plea filed by retired Army veteran SG Vombatkere challenging the provision contending that it violates freedom of speech and expression and is disproportionate to the object it seeks to achieve.
The Court had, on Wednesday, sought the assistance of Attorney General in the matter."This section need not be struck down and only guidelines be set out so that section meets its legal purpose," AG submitted.
The plea filled through Advocate Prasanna S, submits that Section 124A of the IPC is ultra vires Article19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution,read with Article 14 and 21, and was upheld, after a partial reading down, in the 1962 judgement of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar.
During the hearing, the Bench expressed that the Petitioner sacrificed his whole life for protection of the country. " We can't say this is any motivated litigation".
CJI added that the gravity of the situation is so grim that if some State or a particular Party doesn't want to hear a voice, they will use this law to implicate such groups of people.
The Bench which also comprised Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy then issued notice to the Central government in the matter.
Soliciter General Tushar Mehta accepted notice on behalf of Union. Next date of hearing will be notified soon.