UAPA, Sedition Laws Have No Place in Democracy: Former SC, HC Judges
"It is the process that becomes the punishment," said one former Supreme Court judge on the use of UAPA in India.
"Vagueness of the law allows prosecution agencies to charge people. Even 70 years after Independence, our judges don't seem to realise what is sedition, what is terrorism," said former Supreme Court judge Deepak Gupta, who, along with four other former judges, called out the stringent UAPA and sedition laws at a recent public webinar.
The webinar titled “Democracy, Dissent and Draconian laws – Should the UAPA and sedition have a place in our statute books?" was organised by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms and the Human Rights Defenders Alert.
The panelists included former SC judges – Justice Aftab Alam, Justice Madan Lokur, Justice Deepak Gupta, Justice Gopala Gowda – and former Patna high court judge and senior advocate Anjana Prakash.
"One of the criticisms of the UAPA is that it has a very low rate of conviction, but a high rate of pendency. It is the process that becomes the punishment."Justice Aftab Alam
'Dissent is Essential in a Democracy'
Speaking on the legislative intent of UAPA, sedition and the ground reality of the use of these laws, Justice Deepak Gupta said that the draconian laws have no place in a democracy like India and are used to stifle dissent and quell the voices that are asking questions from the government.
In the discussion, Justice Gupta elaborated on how the law came about in the British era and its intent.
“Despite the law being so clear, it is being misused. The clarifications regarding the law will come and go but the police may continue to misuse it.”Justice Deepak Gupta
He pertinently added that as far as the law of sedition is concerned, “there is no case for it to be retained in the statute book and should be shown the door as soon as possible”.
‘Mental Health Compensation is Equally Important if Not More’
Justice Lokur echoed the statements made by Justice Gupta; however, he said that it's likely that these laws are not going anywhere.
He stressed on the need for compensation and accountability for those who are wrongfully treated under the laws, as he listed multiple cases where persons who were jailed for multiple years were not provided with any compensation.
He drew attention to the need for compensation of mental and emotional trauma caused by the arrests and detention of people jailed under UAPA and sedition laws.
“Let's look at only one aspect of acquittal and the accountability aspect of the UAPA. Compensation is one, accountability is another. But mental health in equally important, if not more. It is going to remain for the rest of their life and the lives of their children."Justice Lokur
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