On Thursday, the Supreme Court quashed a sedition case filed against journalist Vinod Dua by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader over remarks aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Dua’s YouTube show. The court observed that every scribe is entitled to the protection granted under its Kedar Nath Singh judgement of 1962, which had laid down the ambit of our law on ‘sedition’.
This is a relief. Neither the country nor its constitutional apparatus of governance can be conflated with any individual leader. And criticism in itself is not seditious. Free speech is among the hallmarks of real democracy, and that includes the right to air critiques. The trouble with our provision that outlaws sedition is that it was written in the days of the British raj and has words that can be interpreted to squash dissent. This served our colonial overlords quite well. But India, as a free country, needs to maximize the freedom of its people within reasonable bounds. It’s thus welcome that our apex court might also be considering a review of that law. It’s often misused as a tool of harassment and needs to be scrapped. We have enough laws to deal with real threats to national security.
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