October 28, 2021

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Strike down sedition law, offensive parts of UAPA, retired Justice Rohinton Nariman urges Supreme Court

Justice Nariman termed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act draconian legislation. (Photo: YouTube/AbhishekManuSinghvi)

The controversial sedition law is in the news again with former Supreme Court Justice Rohinton Nariman urging the apex court to strike down Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises sedition and offensive parts of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). Speaking at a function organised by Viswanath Pasayat Memorial Committee, Justice Nariman said that the top court should not leave it to Parliament to remove these laws.

He urged the apex court to use its judicial review powers to strike down the law to help citizens breathe more freely. He said that governments will come and go and therefore the Supreme Court should strike down these laws.

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Justice Rohinton Nariman also highlighted that sedition was not originally present in the final Indian Penal Code (IPC) prepared by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay though it was present in the draft version, reported Bar and Bench. He added that the British government used the law to silence freedom fighters.

The former Supreme Court judge also said that sedition law was a part of the exception to free speech under draft Article 19 of the Constitution and was dropped from the constitution after being debated extensively. He added that though it was removed from the Constitution but continues to remain in the Indian Penal Code.

Justice Nariman termed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act draconian legislation. “UAPA is a draconian Act as it has no anticipatory bail and has minimum 5 years imprisonment. This Act is not under scanner yet. This too has to be looked into along with the sedition law,” Bar and Bench quoted him saying.

He said that these two laws have a chilling effect on journalists and need to be examined by the top court.

In July this year, the Supreme Court had observed that the sedition law was being misused and had asked whether it was still necessary to use the colonial law.

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