Journalists Patricia Mukhim and Anuradha Bhasin move SC challenging sedition law

By PTI
NEW DELHI: Two women journalists have moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of sedition law contending that the colonial-era penal provision was being used to intimidate, silence and punish scribes.

Patricia Mukhim, Editor, The Shillong times and Anuradha Bhasin, owner of Kashmir Times, said that section 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code will continue to “haunt and hinder” the right to free speech and the freedom of the press.

“The three tier categorisation of the punishment for the offence of sedition, ranging from life imprisonment to fine simpliciter, without any legislative guidance for sentencing, amounts to granting unbridled discretion to judges, which is hit by the doctrine of arbitrariness and violates Article 14(Equality before law),” the plea said.

Earlier, an NGO on July 16 filed a similar petition challenging constitutional validity of sedition law on grounds that it is “anachronistic” and has “lost all relevance in a free democracy like India.”

The petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said that sedition was a political crime, originally enacted to prevent political uprisings against the Crown and to control the British colonies.

A law of such “repressive” character, has no place in independent India, it said.

Former Union Minister Arun Shourie also moved the top court last week against the law.

The Section 124-A (sedition) under the IPC is non-bailable provision and it makes any speech or expression that brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India a criminal offence punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The apex court on July 15 agreed to examine the pleas filed by Editors Guild of India and a former major general, challenging the constitutionality of the law, and said its main concern was the “misuse of law”.

Shourie, in his petition, urged the court to declare the law as “unconstitutional” as “it has come to be heavily abused with cases being filed against citizens for exercising their freedom of speech and expression.”