Monday, October 2, 2023

CJI Chandrachud terms sedition law redundant, says Supreme Court mulling to invalidate it

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Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud has termed Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, commonly known as the law of sedition, redundant and that the Supreme Court was considering to nullify its constitutional validity.

Speaking at the convocation ceremony of the Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU), Aurangabad on Sunday, the CJI said Section 124A IPC came into force in India during colonial rule. The British twisted its definition as per their convenience to clamp down on freedom fighters. The same has continued with successive governments in the country, he added. 

Talking about Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, he said it was used during the British Raj to send freedom fighters away to places ranging from Mandalay in Burma to the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The same law today has different aspirations, he noted.

The CJI observed that the outcome of a law depended on the person or authority wielding it, whether it was being wielded by the judges, lawyers or the civil society. He said when the law was wielded with compassion, it was capable of producing justice, but when it was wielded with a sense of arbitrary power, it yielded injustice. 

He said the substance of law was grounded in compassion and a tradition of humanism, adding that there could not be any law apart from the quest for justice. 

Addressing the graduating law students, the MNLU Chancellor said that the younger generation wielded the conscience of the nation. 

Stressing on the importance of inclusivity and tolerance in the legal profession, he said the law taught the students about the spirit of enquiry and encouraged them to ask questions. The law further brought with it the traditions of reasoning and dialogue. It was a substitute for a call to arms, violence and distrust. 

The CJI pointed out that reasoning and dialogue made the legal profession stand out from others. 

He said the lawyers and judges did not shoot people for having a different opinion. They were not the ones to ostracise people having different food habits, diverse dress sense or having different beliefs. The profession valued each and every member as it would stand by the spirit of reasoning and dialogue. 

This profession represented a tradition of inclusion, which was something more than tolerance. When a lawyer or judge respected people different from them, they recognised the need for inclusion. It translated into the recognition that people of all hues in the society were entitled to live the same good life, he observed.

The CJI further reassured the graduating students that it was normal to be unsure of one’s career path sometimes, especially at the very beginning.

He said when he joined the profession in 1982, he always wondered what would be his next step after completing law. 

CJI Chandrachud, while observing that being confused at this stage of one’s career was legitimate, revealed that even today, he was confused about the path of life he would like to chart out for himself in future. 

Telling the students not to be despondent by the fact that they were not certain on what they wanted to do next, the CJI said that life was full of opportunities. 

However, he assured that if they chose to become lawyers and pursue this path of life, it would be as satisfying as any other branch of life that they wished to pursue.

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