‘I think the time has come to relook this proposition of law if a law is capable of gross abuse and it is proven to the court that it is being abused day in and day out,’ Justice Deepak Gupta said in the context of draconian laws such as UAPA, sedition, and NSA.
The former Supreme Court judge was speaking at a webinar by CJAR- ‘Discussion On DEMOCRACY, DISSENT AND DRACONIAN LAW- Should UAPA & Sedition Have A Place In Our Statute Books?’
While speaking, Justice Gupta said that ‘the time has come that section 124A (of the IPC; on sedition) be held as unconstitutional’. He further added that a law like the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) should not remain in the statute book in the present form, Live Law reported.
Discussing the observation made by an SC bench earlier that called sedition law ‘colonial’. Justice Gupta said that he is optimistic that the Court will strike down the provision when the matter challenging the constitutionality of the provision is finally heard.
Even in cases where the involved authorities, the accused and their family are well aware of the accused innocence, this law is employed as then the courts are reluctant to grant bail or they feel they cannot grant bail which has often led to the imprisonment of innocent people for several years. Moreover, the judge said that the rising trend of people getting incarcerated under UAPA but after long years they are found innocent and are acquitted is worrying.
He emphasised the importance of higher courts in their ‘role of being the protector and defender of human rights of the citizens and granting bail to those accused under UAPA falsely. He said that district and local courts do not give bail in cases of sedition for anti-national activities due to their worry regarding the reaction to it the public and this is where the High courts and the Supreme court must lead from the front.
Justice Gupta explained that UAPA only defines terrorism in very vague terms and the same is the case with sedition that uses very vague language which is used by the authorities to include activities that are not terror-related per se. ‘Laws which are very vague either should be struck down or the vagueness should be removed by the court,’ he added.
He suggested that those incarcerated wrongfully under these laws must be compensated. The Judge further said that if the agencies and respective authorities are made to pay the compensation out of their pocket, they will think multiple times before casually using such laws.
Along with that, he emphasised the vital role that the Courts must play in these cases and said that ‘the courts must also be stricter with the law enforcement agencies and not with the people who are victims of these laws.’
However, Justice Gupta said that he cannot negate the fact that anti-terror laws are required in the country given the increase in instances of terrorism but the law should be strict and ‘it must be used only against terrorist activities. It is to be drafted in such a manner and interpreted by the courts in such a manner that there is no scope for misuse.’