Days after terming the continued usage of the repealed section 66 A of the IT act as a ''shocking state of affairs", the Supreme Court on July 15 expressed concerns over the potentially misused 150-year-old sedition law.
The apex court, while issuing notices to the Centre, questioned whether the same law, which was used by the British to silence the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Lokmanya Tilak, was still necessary after 75 years of India's independence.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana was hearing a plea filed by a retired army major general challenging section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code. The clause was introduced by the then British government in 1870 aimed at ''preservation of his majesties person and government against treasonable and seditious practices and attempt''.
Arun Shourie, who served as Divestment Minister in the erstwhile Vajpayee government has also moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of section 124 A.
Government data suggests that though over 300 sedition cases were filed between 2014 and 2019, trials were completed in only about 18 percent of the cases. The conviction was upheld in only six cases.
As per Web Portal Article 14's sedition database, 65 percent of the 816 sedition cases were implicated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office. Moreover, 22 of the 25 sedition cases in relation to the anti-CAA protests were filed in BJP ruled states.
This brings up the question - is the sedition law a mere tool for intimidation and muzzling freedom of speech and must be scrapped in toto or should we still retain the law with further amendments? To discuss this and more CNBC-TV18’s Ashmit Kumar spoke to Justice Madan B Lokur, Former Supreme Court judge.Watch the accompanying video for more.