Retired Supreme Court Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman on Sunday said India’s sedition law should be struck down by the apex court, asserting that the strict anti-terrorism laws like UAPA-like colonial decrees were detrimental to the country’s democracy.
“I would urge the Supreme Court not to send back the sedition law cases pending at the Centre. Governments will come and go (but) it is important for the court to exercise its power and do away with the offending part of Section 124A and UAPA. Then the citizens here will breathe more freely,” Justice Nariman said while speaking at a function organized by Vishwanath Pasayat Memorial Committee.
He said that India’s rank in the Global Law Index is 142 because harsh and colonial laws still exist. He said the sedition law and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA especially have an impact on journalists. “Two journalists from the Philippines were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. There India’s rank was 142… Why? It has more to do with India’s bank of colonial laws,” he said.
He talked about the history of sedition law in Britain and India and said that the Supreme Court should strike down the provisions of sedition. “We had a China and Pakistan war. After that we introduced a tougher law – the Unlawful Activities Prohibition Act. Dissent continues in the statute book and the UAPA is a harsh act as it has no anticipatory bail and carries a minimum of five years’ imprisonment. This act is not yet under investigation. It should also be seen along with the sedition law,” Justice Nariman said.
Hearing petitions against the sedition law, the Supreme Court in July this year had questioned whether the law was “necessary even after 75 years of independence”. The law poses a serious threat to the functioning of institutions and carries “enormous power” for abuse with no accountability to the executive, the court compared to a saw in the hands of an overzealous carpenter.