Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who has often been at the receiving end of many a barb courtesy the ruling BJP and its leaders found mention on Tuesday during a hearing on pleas challenging the sedition law. A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana was hearing the matter.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal who was representing the petitioners was arguing about the misuse of sedition law when he said, “We are in post-constitution era. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said that this provision is obnoxious and the sooner we get rid of sedition the better.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Centre, responded by saying, “What Nehru couldn’t do, the current government is doing. We are trying to do, what Pandit Nehru could not do then.”
The Solicitor General was referring to the fact that the centre had told the top court that it is ready to re-examine the law in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision on human rights and the country celebrating 75 years of Independence, as part of which colonial baggage is being done away with.
But Mr Sibal refused to accept that argument and hit back, saying, “No, not at all. You are not doing that. You are supporting the law. You are saying all is good, Mr Mehta.”
He then quoted Mahatma Gandhi, “Affection cannot be manufactured. One should be free to express disaffection, so long as there is no incitement to violence. I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected to the Government.”
Mr Sibal’s argument in court was that the current government has been misusing the law by equating government with state, and anything that is said against the government is treated as an act against the nation.
The hearing on sedition came a day after the government said it had decided to review the legislation – a major shift just two days after firmly defending the country’s colonial-era law and asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the pleas challenging it.
In a new affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the centre said, “In the spirit of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years of Independence) and the vision of PM Narendra Modi, the Government of India has decided to re-examine and reconsider the provisions of Section 124A, Sedition law.”
It urged the Supreme Court to wait for the review by a “competent forum” and urged it to “not invest time” on petitions filed by the Editors’ Guild of India, Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra and others challenging the sedition law.