Mumbai: Criticising selective application of the sedition law against those who simply exercise their right to free speech, ex Supreme Court judge Rohinton Nariman has called for abolishing the law which he said stifled the right to freedom of speech.
"It is time to completely do away with sedition laws and allow free speech so long as it does not exhort somebody to violence," he said at the online inauguration of the DM Harish School of Law, Mumbai, on January 14,. Former Justice Nariman pointed out that it was extremely disappointing to see comedians and artists being booked under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
"You have persons giving hate speech actually calling for a genocide for an entire group, and we find great reluctance from the authorities to book these people. We also unfortunately have higher echelons of the ruling party not only being silent qua hate speech but also almost endorsing it,," he can be heard saying in excerpts of the speech published online.
"We heard the other day from the head of the party a juxtaposition of a Mughal emperor known for being a bigot —Aurangzeb — against Shivaji, who was known to be a secular leader," he said.
He declared the law unconstitutional and unfair in its application. It was at least heartening to note that the Vice President Ram Nath Kovind had condemned the act of hate speech, Nariman added.
The former judge also took note of the Sabarimala issue where the Supreme Court had ruled that women of menstruating age could enter the famous Ayyaplan shrine in Kerala which was known to ban women who were in the age groups between puberty and menopause.
"Most unfortunately, the Supreme Court itself sent this judgment by way of a review petition to a bench of 9 judges (something unheard of in a review petition). Thereby, Sabarimala issue has gone in limbo," he said.
Eternal vigilance is necessary, not only for liberty but also for liberty enforced by courts which is the rule of law of the country, said Justice Nariman while concluding his address.