STATING THAT the sedition law could not be entirely done away with, former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee on Saturday, however, underlined that criticism of the government cannot amount to sedition. Speaking at a panel discussion at the launch of the book After Rhetoric — Free Speech and the Consitution of India, written by Mumbai lawyer Abhinav Chandrachud, Sorabjee said, “I don’t think we can do away with it… but the Supreme Court has already toned it down.” He was referring to the 1962 Kedarnath Singh case, in which, the Supreme Court had held that the tendency to disturb public order was essential to attract sedition.
Sorabjee, however, stressed that the “criticism of the government however strong, however pungent cannot be sedition.” He also lamented at the manner of its implementation, saying, “Even Arun Jaitley was charged with sedition. Shows how nonsensical people could be in implementation of the law”.
To a question on why a judge should be treated any different from the Prime Minister or the President, the senior lawyer said that this was “because of the unique position they (judges) occupy in our scheme of things.” He added, “You can’t compare a judge with a politician.”
In his book, Chandrachud,the son of Supreme Court judge Justice D Y Chandrachud, argues that the Constitution did not make a significant difference to the freedom of expression in India. The book deals with controversies relating to free speech and tries to make a case for strengthening freedom of expression.