Strike down sedition law, former judge Rohinton Nariman urges Supreme Court

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Urging the Supreme Court to strike down offensive portions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises sedition, retired Supreme Court judge Rohinton Nariman on Sunday said the court should not leave it to the government to remove the offending laws and instead use its judicial power to do so.

Rohinton NarimanIn July last, the Supreme Court had observed that the sedition law was being widely misused and wondered whether the colonial era law was at all necessary now. Justice Nariman said, “I would exhort the Supreme Court to not send sedition law cases pending before it back to the Centre. Governments will come and go (but) it is important for the court to use its power and strike down Section 124A and offensive portion of UAPA. Then citizens here would breathe more freely.”

He was speaking at a function organised by the Viswanath Pasayat Memorial Committee. Justice Nariman pointed out that sedition was part of the original draft but not in the final version of the Indian Penal Code drawn up by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay.  It came into force in 1862.

“Sedition provision was there in draft but not in the final book. But it was later discovered and re-drafted. It was said that this section was left out by oversight. The wordings were also vague. Sentence under 124A was enormous as it was transportation for life and imprisonment for three years,” he said while stressing that this law has a chilling effect on journalists as well.

UAPA, too, is draconian“We had China and Pakistan wars. Thereafter, we introduced the draconian legislation, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. UAPA has no anticipatory bail and has minimum five years imprisonment. This Act is not under the scanner yet. This too has to be looked into,” Justice Nariman said