News analysis | Sedition: CJI observations in July show SC took judicial notice of abuse



2015 ruling called for overturning vague laws that stifle free speech and hamper personal freedom

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s response to Parliament that there is no proposal to remove sedition from the penal code comes nearly five months after India’s Chief Justice NV Ramana made scathing remarks to the government in open session on the crippling effect of the “colonial law” which suppresses the freedoms of ordinary people.

At a hearing on July 15, the CJI compared the use of sedition (Article 124A of the CPI) to a tool given to a carpenter “to cut a piece of wood and he uses it to cut down the entire forest. herself “.

CJI wondered why a democracy needed a law that was used by the British to imprison Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

No proposal to delete section 124A

“The Home Office has advised that there is no proposal under consideration to remove Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code of 1860. In addition, the legal question regarding Section 124A is pending. judgment before the Honorable Supreme Court of India, ”Mr. Rijiju said in a written response to Lok Sabha.

Mr Rijiju said that comments that sedition was a “colonial law” misused by the government were not part of any judgment or court order.

However, on July 15, the government, through its top official, Attorney General KK Venugopal, responded to CJI’s oral submissions in court, saying there was no need to quash the article 124A. “It is enough to see if there has been excess in its use and to limit the Section to its real objective … That would be sufficient”, replied Mr. Venugopal.

CJI’s observations in court show that the highest court took judicial notice of the state’s abuse of the sedition provision. The observations were made by the CJI during the court proceedings. Oral observations made during a hearing, although not forming part of a formal order or judgment, reflect the line of thinking of the Constitutional Court. It shows the application of the judicial spirit, and in this case, of the highest judge in the land. In addition, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in the Shreya Singhal case called for the overturning of vague laws that stifle free speech and hamper personal freedom.

Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, in his tweets, pointed out that the court’s comments had been reported in the media. Mr. Rijiju retorted that media reports are not part of the official archives.

However, the court has already requested a formal response from the government by issuing an opinion on a petition filed by retired General SG Vombatkere to quash Section 124A. He also sent an opinion to the government on a written request filed jointly by the Editors Guild of India and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi.

Two other petitions filed by Kishore Chandra Wangkemcha and M / s Aamoda Broadcasting Company Private Limited, the latter against the government of Andhra Pradesh, are pending before the Supreme Court. Both cases concern charges of sedition.

A bench led by judge UU Lalit had issued an opinion in the Wangkemcha case. The Aamoda petition is before a bench led by Judge DY Chandrachud. A petition from veteran journalist Arun Shourie and the NGO Common Cause, both represented by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, argued that Section 124A did not even have a “presumption of constitutionality”.

The CJI bench said all of these petitions raise “similar questions of law.” The very fact that the tribunal wants a response from the government shows that it senses a problem worthy of judicial intervention. CJI’s oral remarks in July also paved the way for debate and introspection on the tribunal’s own judgment in 1962, in the Kedar Nath case, which upheld Section 124A.

Outdated laws

The CJI had asked the government why it had not removed the sedition law and the hundreds of “outdated laws” that it had removed from legislative texts.

“If you look at the history of using this section 124A of the CPI, you will find that the conviction rate is very low. There is abuse of power on the part of the executive agencies… Your government is taking a lot of outdated laws out of the law books, why haven’t they looked at that? Asked the chief justice.

The response of the Minister of Justice that there is “no proposal” to repeal the sedition law follows remarks by the CJI on its “extended powers”, the admission of several lawsuits challenging it and growing public denunciation by central and state law enforcement agencies using the law to silence dissent, stifle free speech and deny bail to imprisoned activists, journalists, students and members of civil society .

” People are scared. Our concern is the abuse of the law and the lack of accountability. Why did this continue in the statute book even after 75 years of our independence? Chief Justice Ramana asked the government in July.



Comments are closed.