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'Chilling Effect on Free Speech': SC Justice Urges Court to Scrap Sedition, UAPA

He was speaking at an event commemorating the 109th Birth Anniversary of Late Viswanath Pasayat.

Published
India
2 min read
Justice Rohinton Nariman speaking at the Harvard Law School event.
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"There is a chilling effect on free speech. If you are booking persons, including journalists, under these laws that come with large sentences and no anticipatory bail, people would not speak their mind."
Justice Rohinton Nariman, according to LiveLaw

Underlining this, Retired Justice Rohinton Nariman implored the Supreme Court on Sunday, 10 October, to rescind IPC Section 124A (sedition) and the offending portions of the contentious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

He was speaking at an event commemorating the 109th Birth Anniversary of Late Viswanath Pasayat.

Citing the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index of 2021, in which India ranked at 142 in a list of 180 nations, Justice Nariman stated that this step will allow citizens to "breathe more freely".

He added further, "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," LiveLaw quoted.

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The former Supreme Court judge noted that the sedition law was set up by a colonial master to "suppress free speech in a colony" and "continues to be misused" today.

"After Shayara Bano, manifest arbitrariness is now a ground you can take, that a colonial law is being brought to oppress free citizens!" Justice Nariman asserted, LiveLaw quoted.

Emphasising that the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureates are two journalists from the Philippines and Russia who are actively encouraging free speech, the former SC Justice stated that India's poor performance in the WPI could be due to its "out-dated" and "repressive laws".

Justice Nariman traced the sedition law's journey in relation to the Indian Constitution and stressed that while it was present in the draft of the Constitution, it was absent from the final book.

He added, "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," Bar and Bench reported.

Speaking on the UAPA, he said that the history of the "draconian legislation" can be linked to India's wars with China and Pakistan.

"We had China and Pakistan wars. Thereafter, we introduced the draconian legislation, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. UAPA is a draconian Act as it has no anticipatory bail and has minimum of 5 years imprisonment. This Act is not under scanner yet. This too has to be looked into along with the sedition law," he stated, Bar and Bench quoted.

(With inputs from LiveLaw and Bar and Bench.)

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