NEW DELHI: Former SC Judge Madan B Lokur on Monday lamented that laws are being misused to curb free speech and cited “weaponization’ of the sedition law, “abuse” of prohibitory orders and “blanket” shutdown of the Internet, which impacted individual liberty.
Delivering the 2020 BG Verghese Memorial Lecture on ‘Preserving and Protecting our Fundamental Right to Protest’ organised by the Media Foundation, Lokur said, “One of the worst forms of curtailment of the freedom of speech is charging a person with sedition.” He said the SC had laid down the sedition law clearly and cogently in 1962, yet authorities found various ways of “weaponizing” it.
Observing that law is being misused to curb free press and speech, the retired judge said “a lethal cocktail” of use and misuse of law is being used to impact adversely the liberty of all those who dare to speak up. He said the law is always to be interpreted objectively, but but of late, subjective satisfaction has taken over and the and the consequences are unpalatable. The former apex court judge was especially critical of “weaponizing” the sedition law, “abuse” of prohibitory orders and blanket shutdown of the Internet.
Justice(Retd) Lokur was delivering the 2020 B G Verghese Memorial n “Preserving and Protecting our Fundamental Rights—Freedom of Speech, Expression and the Right to Protest”.
At a webinar on ‘Freedom of Speech and Judiciary’ last month, Lokur had said suddenly there are a lot of cases where people are charged with sedition. “A common citizen who says something is charged with sedition. Already 70 cases of sedition have been seen this year,” he said.
“Fundamental right to free speech is extremely important for any civilised democracy,” Lokur said adding that authorities are obliged to ensure that the that the laws are not twisted, misused or abused in such a manner that citizens get deprived of their liberties.
He advised the “establishment” to understand tbat “the people of this country mean well and as in any democracy, there are bound to be different points of view”.
“These must be respected, otherwise, the fabric of our society might disintegrate…,” he said. (Times of India 13 October 2020)