NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court's observation on the sedition law as it asked the Centre whether the legislation was still needed 75 years after Independence.
Expressing concern over the "enormous misuse" of the colonial-era penal law, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to "silence" people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress the freedom movement.
Several Opposition leaders and civil society activists hailed the apex court for the observation and expressed the hope that the legislation would be "thrown out".
"We welcome this observation by the Supreme Court," Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav tweeted, "Yes, that's the question. Case in point: Yesterday, sedition case was registered against farmers in Sirsa for breaking the windshield of a minister's vehicle! That's what this law is being used for."
Human Rights activist Vrinda Grover said all political parties have used the offence of sedition to intimidate and silence citizens exercising their fundamental rights.
"Not only England, but the legislature in many commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland have repealed the colonial crime of sedition.
Congress was in power in the Centre for decades with a majority in Parliament; but did not strike down Sec 124A IPC.
Each political party likes to deploy this offence from its arsenal," she said.
She said multiple cases of sedition were filed against the fisherfolk community in Tamil Nadu protesting against the construction of the nuclear plant in Kudankulam, adjacent to their villages, during UPA rule.
The Supreme Court bench, which agreed to examine pleas challenging the constitutionality of section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, also issued notice to the Centre.
"We do not know why the government is not taking a decision. Your government has been getting rid of stale laws," it said.
The non-bailable provision 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.